MLB free agency: Didi Gregorius race likely down to Phillies, Cincinnati Reds

Free agent shortstop Didi Gregorius. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports
Free agent shortstop Didi Gregorius. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports /

Somewhere in the background, one can almost imagine Oprah Winfrey yelling, “You get an infielder. And you get an infielder … ” and so on. MLB free agency’s big story line Tuesday was catcher J.T. Realmuto heading back to the Philadelphia Phillies, but the middle infielders were selling like hotcakes as the market went from sub-arctic to supernova in an instant.

Seemingly within minutes of each other, reports broke that Marcus Semien was off to the Toronto Blue Jays, Andrelton Simmons was a surprise signing by the Minnesota Twins, Freddy Galvis agreed to terms with the Baltimore Orioles and Tommy LaStella was close to a deal with the San Francisco Giants in a potential cross-bay MLB free agency move.

MLB free agency: Market narrows for Didi Gregorius

One omission from Tuesday’s infield festivities was Didi Gregorius. It appears the market for the shortstop, who will be 31 next month, is down to a pair of his former teams — the Phillies or the Cincinnati Reds.

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But his reported price tag may be too much for a return to Philadelphia, where he played last season on a one-year, $14 million contract, after the Phillies committed $115.5 million over five years to Realmuto.

According to MLB Network insider Jon Heyman, Gregorius is said to be seeking a deal in the two-year, $30 million range.

But even though the Phils are flirting with the competitive balance tax line, Scott Lauber of the Philadelphia Inquirer reported the club is not exactly enamored of the idea of moving Jean Segura back to shortstop or committing to Scott Kingery, but the presence of the two gives the Phillies some leverage against feeling forced to pay more than they want to.

Meanwhile, the Reds appear to be in the market for a veteran shortstop with Galvis off to Baltimore. Gregorius has ties to the Cincinnati organization as well, signing with them as an international free agent from Curacao in 2007 and making his major-league debut for the club in September 2012.

While youngster Jose Garcia got a look last season, the Cuban signed in 2017 won’t turn 23 until April and struggled at the plate in his first taste of the major leagues last season, hitting .194 with a .400 OPS in 68 plate appearances, with one walk and a strikeout rate of 38.8 percent. He did not have an extra base hit.

But as of now, Cincinnati’s options appear to be Garcia or utility man Kyle Farmer, who hit .266 with a .641 OPS in 70 plate appearances last season, hitting three doubles and driving in four runs. Farmer did show some pop in 197 plate appearances for the Reds in 2019, hitting the only nine home runs of his career that season.

Gregorius would certainly be an offensive upgrade at shortstop for the Reds and would also be a better bat than Simmons, whom the Phillies reportedly courted heavily.

Last season, Gregorius played in all 60 games and hit .284 with an .827 OPS in 237 plate appearances. He had 10 doubles, two triples, 10 home runs and drove in 40 runs. He didn’t walk much (a 6.3 percentage rate). but he also put the ball in play (strikeout rate of 11.8 percent).

While there might be some suggestions the Phillies could try to swing a deal for free-agents-to-be Trevor Story or Javier Baez, neither the Colorado Rockies nor the Chicago Cubs, respectively, have given any indication they are looking to move their star shortstops.

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There is a solid defensive option still available in the middle infield, but Kolten Wong has never played shortstop, though he is a two-time Gold Glove second baseman. A move for Wong would push Philadelphia back to having to move Segura back to shortstop, something their pitching staff would probably prefer to avoid.