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January 27, 2021

MLB rumors: Are Phillies shortstop options Didi Gregorius or bust?

The Phillies did the most important thing they could do on Tuesday — they landed the best catcher in all of baseball.

But locking up J.T. Realmuto for the next five years is the solution to just one roster problem. The Phillies have others.

Their lineup, if nothing changes, is one player short.

1BRhys Hoskins
2BJean Segura
3BAlec Bohm
LFBryce Harper
RFAndrew McCutchen
UTILScott Kingery

See those two question marks in the chart above? Scott Kingery can only play one of two positions at a time. If he plays in center (even a few days a week, splitting time with Adam Haseley and Roman Quinn), the Phillies are short an infielder. If he plays at shortstop, they have almost no other depth in the infield and some pretty unreliable options in center.

Segura can play short, but that obviously leaves second base open. With just around $28 million remaining now before the Phillies exceed the luxury tax threshold, the expectation was that they would bring in an infielder, preferably a shortstop who can play a little defense. But some dominoes fell while the Phillies were focused on Realmuto.

Freddy Galvis signed with the Orioles.

Marcus Semien signed with the Blue Jays.

Andrelton Simmons signed with the Twins.

So who is left?

Playing in all 60 games last season in Philly, Gregorius looked to earn every penny of the $14 million (pro-rated of course) he was paid on a prove-it deal, hitting .284 with 10 homers and 40 RBI (the most runs batted in of any Phillie in 2020).  Gregorius will be 31 before the season starts, and the Phillies may be rightfully wary of doling out too many multi-year deals to players on the wrong side of 30. 

The thought behind the team not being eager to sign a shortstop for more than one more year is their hope that former first round pick Bryson Stott can develop into their next longterm starter. Having a highly paid veteran blocking him — and also eating up salary — is less than ideal. There are almost no starting caliber options out there after Gregorius. Will the Phillies pass on his demands and try something more creative?

Other second base options include Jonathan Schoop and Dee Gordon. In theory, Segura could play short and a cheaper free agent second baseman could fill the infield void, allowing Kingery to be the utility man, play in the outfield, and serve as much needed depth for inevitable injuries.

PlayerSlashCareer WAR
Kolten Wong.261/.333/.38416.9
Jonathan Schoop.259/.297/.45017.3
Dee Gordon.286/.319/.36012.0

While Wong is projected to command some kind of salary in the $10 million range — still within the Phillies' budget — the other two shouldn't cost more than $2-6 million. The options after the trio above is less than starting caliber.

With spring training scheduled to start the second week of February, there is a bit of a crunch for the Phillies to figure this last piece of the positional puzzle out. We'll see if it happens soon.

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