When the 2022 season begins, Didi Gregorius will be 32-years old. While that’s not old age, in baseball terms, it’s old enough to make people wonder if the end is approaching when you have an off season, which Gregorius did in 2021. With 13 home runs, Gregorius hit the fewest of any full season in his major league career since 2014 when he hit just nine with Arizona. Last season, Gregorius played in all 60 Phillies games but the season before and this past season, he was limited because of injuries, playing in 82 games in 2019 and 103 in 2021, well below the 144 game average that he posted from 2015-2018.
One person who is concerned about Gregorius’ production is David Dombrowsky, the team’s president of baseball operations. “We need to get better at shortstop,” said Dombrowsky during his postseason autopsy of the team that he is in charge of building. “Whether it’s internally or externally, whatever it may be, we need to do that.”
Dombrowsky went on to concede that Gregorius, who will be in the final year of a two-year, $26-million contract that he signed last off-season, could be the team’s answer at short. The Phillies president went on to note that nothing is official regarding Gregorius, but the team has privately spoken to Gregorius about the need to increase both offensive and defensive production at short.
“He knows, we’ve had a discussion with him, that he needs to be better. We’re in a position where we are going to be open-minded to what’s going to take place at shortstop next year. It could be internal. It could be Gregorius, if he comes back,” Dombrowsky said, noting that Gregorius was plagued by injury issues in 2021. “He will come (into spring training) in shape and maybe it is him. We’ll just see how he does at that point, but he’s not guaranteed that for sure he is the shortstop.”
Dombrowsky’s words are interesting particularly because Bryson Stott, the heir apparent to the shortstop job, put up impressive numbers in the minors this season, hitting a combined mark of 16-49-.299/.390/.486 in 22 games at High-A Lakewood, 80 games at Double-A Reading and 10 more with Triple-A Lehigh Valley. Moving Stott to the majors that quickly would seemingly go against an organizational philosophy that the team is attempting to change in its player development department. One of the complaints about Josh Bonifay, the former director of player development was that he was moving players too quickly through the minor league system, which resulted in several high profile prospects struggling at the major league level.
To trade Gregorius would be selling low on him and likely mean that the Phillies would eat a big chunk of the $15-million that he is owed in 2022.
If the Phillies were to find a different starting shortstop, one thought is that Gregorius could relearn how to play other infield positions. While with the Diamondbacks, Gregorius played 11 games at second base and a couple games at third. He could be given some time at both of those positions next season. He could also serve as at least a part-time DH should the National League switch to the designated hitter rule, like it is thought that they might.