On Opening Day 2015, the Yankees trailed the Blue Jays 6-1 when Didi Gregorius was hit by a pitch to lead off the bottom of the eighth inning. With two outs, Carlos Beltran walked to push Gregorius into scoring position as Mark Teixeira came to the plate. The Yankees had a chance to get back into the game with one swing with from Teixeira, but on the first pitch to Teixeira, Gregorius inexplicably took off for third and was thrown out. Inning over, rally over, Yankees’ last chance to get back in the game over.
There was no need for Gregorius to try to steal third, mainly because there’s never a good reason to steal third, unless you’re being given it and are 100 percent certain you will get there. It was an ill-advised move by Derek Jeter’s heir most likely trying to do way too much in his first game with his new team in the team’s first game with a new everyday shortstop in 20 years. Gregorius tried to get into better scoring position for no logical reason, and while the Yankees were most likely going to lose the game anyway, it expedited the result.
After spending much of 2015 criticizing Gregorius, I grew to like and accept him as a player over the next four years despite his in-game decisions like stealing third with two outs, laying down bunts when it was the last thing the team needed or swinging at the first pitch after the previous hitter walked on four straight pitches. He saved the season in the 2017 wild-card game, beat up Corey Kluber in Game 5 of the 2017 ALDS, was the best player in baseball for the first 30 games of 2018 and provided the game-breaking grand slam in Game 2 of this year’s ALDS. Aside from the few postseason moments and the improbable early-season run in April 2018, Gregorius has been exactly what I thought he would be as a Yankee: a great fielder, but a low on-base, bottom-of-the-order bat. Due to injuries and a lack of left-handed bats, Gregorius was often miscast a Top 6 presence in the Yankees’ lineup when he has mostly belonged in the bottom third. Overall, the Gregorius trade worked out for the Yankees. They got an everyday, defensive-minded shortstop who was able to realize his power potential for five seasons.
When it was announced the Yankees didn’t extend a qualifying offer to Gregorius, I wasn’t shocked since he would have most likely accepted the one-year, nearly $18 million payday to rebuild his stock after Tommy John surgery and if the Yankees really wanted him back they could get him for more years at a lower average annual salary. But I don’t want the Yankees to bring him back for more years at any salary. It’s time to move on from Gregorius. It’s not that I would be upset if the Yankees do decide to bring Gregorius back, I just don’t want them to.
It’s not for any one reason but rather a combination of reasons. His low career on-base, his decline in production following surgery, his age turning 30 prior to Opening Day 2020 and his in-game baseball IQ being the lowest on the team since Nick Swisher. Unfortunately, money does matter to these Yankees and any money spent on Gregorius is less the team would have to spend eventually on someone like DJ LeMahieu or any of the young core players. In an ideal world, or a world prior to Hal Steinbrenner counting every penny, I would welcome Gregorius back knowing the Yankees would eventually not play him if he didn’t perform or move on from him if they needed to. But these Yankees won’t do that. Money owed is more important than production and if Gregorius were to fall off on the other side of 30, Yankees fans would have to sit through it.
The question becomes what the Yankees do at shortstop. Thankfully, they have a 22-year-old shortstop who has been playing second base for the last two seasons they could slide over to short and a three-time Gold Glove second baseman who has been playing first base who could slide over to second. The Yankees could then have either Gio Urshela or Miguel Andujar at third base, possibly move to Andujar to first base (which I want them to do), or go with a healthy Luke Voit there.
Gregorius was a nice player for the Yankees. He became a fan favorite, had some big hits, a few Yankees Classic-worthy moments and turned his career around in New York. He ended up being a more-than-acceptable replacement to an all-time Yankee at a position which hadn’t seen change in two decades and his time with the Yankees went much better than originally expected. But it’s time for a change and time to move on from Gregorius.
My book The Next Yankees Era: My Transition from the Core Four to the Baby Bombers is now available as an ebook!