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Analysis

The Yankees Should Let Didi Gregorius Walk Away

Didi Gregorius surely made an impact during his time with the New York Yankees, but that time should now be coming to an end. 

In 2014, one of baseball’s biggest icons, and one of the most famous players to ever dawn pinstripes, Derek Jeter called it a career. At the plate, Jeter was an above average hitter. Jeter’s slash line was .310/.377/.440, with an OPS at .817, a .360 wOBA, 119 wRC+, .130 ISO, .350 BABIP, and a 14.6 K%. However, on defense, Jeter wasn’t very good. He owned a career -152 DRS, -66.1 UZR, and a -8.2 DPR. Overall, he collected a 73.0 fWAR in his 2,747 game career with the New York Yankees. Disregarding all these statistics, Jeter’s impact to the Yankees was way more than his play. He was a leader, and icon of the New York Yankees and major league baseball, and truly exemplified the right way to handle the New York media. In the post Jeter era that started in 2015, a young, 25 year old shortstop by the name of Didi Gregorius took over for the Yankees. How would Didi fair in his time with the Yankees?

Gregorius’s first two seasons in pinstripes were mediocre to say the least, as in 2015 he had a .259 xBA, .336 xSLG, .319 wOBA, .292 xwOBA, .308 xwOBACON, 89 wRC+, .105 ISO, and a .297 BABIP. Overall, the shortstop slashed .265/.318/.370 with an OPS of .688, as well as collecting a 0.3 fWAR. On defense, he had 5 DRS, 7.5 UZR, 7.7 UZR/150, and a 0.8 DPR. Despite his lack of production at the plate, this was by far Gregorius’s best year in the field. Was it enough to really be Jeter’s replacement and the next Yankees long term shortstop? No. His 2016 year showed slight improvement, but not enough worth mentioning.

However, in 2017, Didi Gregorius started to break out. He had a .263 xBA, .388 xSLG, .335 wOBA, .298 xwOBA, .320 xwOBACON, 109 wRC+, .191 ISO, and a .287 BABIP. Overall, he slashed .287/.318/.478, with an OPS at .796, and an fWAR at 4.1. Defensively, he regressed over the last couple seasons where he would have 1 DRS, 7.0 UZR, 6.5 UZR/150, and a -1.5 DPR. We can most definitely see improvement in Didi’s offensive game, as we can see the potential to be a legitimately serviceable bat in the Yankees lineup. It is also important that by now, Didi had implanted himself in the overall culture and family of the Yankees, as he was adored by all his teammates, and became a fan favorite. The best had not yet arrived for Didi Gregorious, as it wasn’t until his 2018 season that he really broke out.

In 2018, Didi had a .262 xBA, .402 xSLG, .350 xOBA, .319 xwOBA, .325 xwOBACON, 122 wRC+, .226 ISO, and a .259 BABIP. Overall, he slashed .268/.335/.494, while collecting a grand total of 4.7 fWAR. On defense, Gregorius got -2 DRS, 3.9 UZR, 5.2 UZR/150, and a -0.3 DPR. While his fielding regressed, his hitting improved dramatically since his 2015 season. This was the high point in Didi’s career. He was playing at a relatively high level, and everyone in New York adored him on and off the field. Unfortunately for Didi, he suffered and injury to his right elbow that required Tommy John Surgery. Things for Didi would begin to spiral downwards from here. 

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In 2019, Didi came back earlier than anticipated, making his return to the majors in early june. However, this might have been for the worst. In 2019, Gregorious had a .247 xBA, .408 xSLG, .298 wOBA, .293 xwOBA, .325 xwOBACON, 84 wRC+, .204 ISO, and a .237 BABIP. Overall, he slashed .237/.276/.441, with an OPS at .718 and an fWAR at 0.9. Defensively, his metrics were relatively similar to his 2018 season, where he got -6 DRS, 0.2 UZR, 0.1 UZR/150, and a 0.6 DPR. It is also important to note the leagues rise in average ISO due to the speculated “juiced baseball” this season, so his .204 ISO that may have been elite a few years ago, is closer to average now. Overall, this season was a huge step back for the future of Didi Gregorius or lack thereof with the New York Yankees.

This offseason, the Yankees have a decision to make. Should they try to bring him back for a cheaper deal, as they already declined his potential qualifying offer. Per fangraphs, for everyone 1 Win (1.0 fWAR) a player gets towards their fWAR, they should be given 7.7 million dollars in AVV. For example, a player who has a 4.0 fWAR deserves roughly 30.8 million dollars per season, assuming there is no regression or injury risk in play. That is a hyper unrealistic scenario, but gives us a good baseline to estimate a contract for Gregorius. If the Yankees were to bring him back, he would deserve about 14 Million over two seasons, because he had a 0.9 fWAR. Although it may seem like a bargain to some, I still would not offer Gregorius a contract whatsoever. 

As much as we have all grown to know and love Didi for his energetic play on the field, and his tweets, locker room leadership, and charitable acts he does off the field, I think it is time to let him go. The reason being that when Didi is on the field, 2/4 of the infield is playing out of position. Gleyber Torres, who is a natural shortstop, is forced to play second base while Didi Gregorius plays short. Not only is Torres a better shortstop than second basemen, this shift would also allow DJ LeMahieu to slide back to second base; his natural position.

I am afraid that if we do indeed bring back Gregorius, he would block Torres and Lemahieu from playing their natural positions. Essentially, Gregorius leaving the Yankees would tighten up the defense up the middle a lot more than it is with him in. In conclusion, I hope the Yankees let Didi walk, and I hope that he finds some success elsewhere. 

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