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January 09, 2021

What are the Phillies options at shortstop?

The Phillies and new president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski are currently faced with an incomplete roster and just over a month before spring training starts in Clearwater. In an appearance on MLB Network Radio, he listed the Phillies' three main priorities right now: the bullpen, catching and shortstop.

Thanks to the Mets' recent wheelings and dealings, the Phillies playoff decade-long draught drought — fifth longest of any major sports franchise currently — looks like it may be destined to continue. 

Philadelphia's hated rivals to the north saw a change in ownership and a change in philosophy, as they have made the biggest splashes of the entire offseason so far, trading for stud shortstop Francisco Lindor and inking catcher James McCann. As a result, the Mets 2021 World Series odds have skyrocketed from +3300 to +1200, according to DraftKings via The Phillies haven't budged from +3000. The Nationals got in the mix this weekend too, landing slugging outfielder Kyle Schwarber to a one-year deal. 

Philly has to get moving.

So where do the Phillies currently stand at their three most vulnerable positions? What are their options?

Yesterday we took a look at the Phillies' three options at fielding a starting catcher for the 2021 seasonToday let's look at the four or so courses of action they could take at shortstop, a position vacated by the free agency of Didi Gregorius.

Keep it in house

The Phillies have invested heavily in Scott Kingery, a guy who they could elect to start as an everyday player in 2021. With an opening to start in centerfield as well, the thought is that the Phils will either bring in someone to play center, or to play short, and have Kingery slide to whichever spot is open, as he is a jack of all trades.

However, let's for a moment assume they do not sign a free agent or trade for a starter at for either spot. Centerfield would be manned by either Roman Quinn or Adam Haseley. Shortstop would likely be played by Jean Segura, as that is his natural position, and Kingery would start at second base. The issue with doing this, is that two of the players we mentioned — Quinn and Kingery — were terrible in 2020. And Haseley, while hitting for a decent average, offered such a lack of power that his slugging percentage was lower than his on base:

Kingery.159/.228/.2833 HR, 6 RBI 
Quinn.213/.261/.3132 HR, 7 RBI
Haseley.278/.348/.3420 HR, 13 RBI

There is hope, of course, that the slip in Kingery's production was due to his testing positive for COVID-19 last summer. The sample size is also obviously small on all three, as the season was abbreviated to just 60 games in 2020. 

The Phillies have at least $50 million in clearance under the luxury tax threshold, and even if they give J.T. Realmuto a record-setting deal for a catcher, they should have plenty of room to spend something to improve the bats in the middle of the field for 2021.

Bring back Didi Gregorius

While the buzz and rumors about Realmuto have been consistent this offseason, there has been a lot less speculation about the Phillies bringing back Gregorius for a second season. That isn't for a lack of worthiness. 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. He will likely be seeking a deal close to the $14 million he got in 2020 which may price the Phils out, particularly if they are more focused on spending their cash on Realmuto.

Sign a cheaper free agent

If the Phillies want to spend less at shortstop, there's no lack of options. For the purposes of our speculation, we'll leave off a handful of names that are very appealing and still available — like former Yankees slugger D.J. LeMahieu, or former Athletics star Marcus Semien — as they are more likely than not looking to fetch even more than Gregorius will be seeking.

Here are a few of the still unsigned, affordable infielders who would likely be among their top targets:

Player (age)Career WAR
Cesar Hernandez (31)11.2
Freddy Galvis (31)7.8
Howie Kendrick (37)34.7
Dee Strange-Gordon (33)12.0
Jurickson Profar (27)4.1
Andrelton Simmons (31)36.8

For whatever reason, re-treads seem to be unavoidable. Hernandez, Galvis, Kendrick are theoretically fits in Philly, as the team needs a solid glove that can add a little pop playing in Citizens Bank Park. But none of the players above really jump off the page. The Phillies no doubt have high hopes that recent first-round pick Bryson Stott winds up as their long term answer at short (or another infield spot), so inking a player to a short-term deal, for a year to two to give Stott time to break through, is likely their optimistic plan.

Make a trade

This seems to be the least likely option, unless a rare player for player trade manifests, but with Dombrowski calling the shots there is always a chance the team tries to keep up with the Mets, who landed the best trade piece on the market in Lindor earlier this week.

The downside for many of the top trade targets out there, including New York's Lindor, is they are only on the trade block because of their impending free agency. Trevor Story from Colorado fits that designation — a star player who could be had for a good package of prospects but would then require a monster free agent deal to remain in Philly. With Realmuto yet unsigned it would be unfathomable that the Phillies would put themselves in a spot like that again. 

The most likely use of a trade would be to acquire a lesser piece, perhaps a utility-type infielder for cheap who would not cost an arm and a leg to keep in Philadelphia.

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