A word about the Yankees and pending free agent Didi Gregorius

Didi Gregorius bats with the PhilliesDidi Gregorius bats with the Phillies

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Didi Gregorius bats with the Phillies
<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Toward the end of a column yesterday suggesting that the Yankees trade Gio Urshela, we devoted a paragraph to Didi Gregorius:” data-reactid=”32″>Toward the end of a column yesterday suggesting that the Yankees trade Gio Urshela, we devoted a paragraph to Didi Gregorius:

“One idea the Yankees should not and likely will not consider is bringing back Didi Gregorius to play short. Last winter, the team viewed Gregorius as a winning player who had simply lost too much of his first-step quickness. This year in Philadelphia, his defensive metrics and underlying hitting numbers were fairly ghastly.”

Given the extent to which some Yankee fans appear to be clamoring for Gregorius to return, this seems worth teasing out a bit and explaining. We don’t want to bury another topic that seems important to many who follow the team.

Gregorius was always a subject of some debate between the analytics folks in the organization, who liked him less than the scouting wing (that’s a reductive framing, because most people on both “sides” of this “divide” are multi-dimensional thinkers, but works for this summary discussion of the dynamic).

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Before the Yankees even traded for Gregorius, according to sources, the scouting folks wanted him more than the stats folks did. Brian Cashman’s job is to listen to both sides and render a verdict; in this case, he sided with the scouts who saw Gregorius as a winning player. They were right.” data-reactid=”53″>Before the Yankees even traded for Gregorius, according to sources, the scouting folks wanted him more than the stats folks did. Brian Cashman’s job is to listen to both sides and render a verdict; in this case, he sided with the scouts who saw Gregorius as a winning player. They were right.

Last year, however, many in the organization noted that Gregorius seemed a bit slower than in the past. Advanced data noted that his first-step quickness had declined, which is one of the reasons the team decided to let him walk.

With the Phillies this year, Gregorius batted .284 with 10 home runs and an .827 OPS. He is not washed up.

But even a cursory glance at his page on Baseball Savant shows underlying numbers that would scare off a team this winter. Gregorius’ exit velocity was in the 2nd percentile among MLB hitters. His hard hit percentage was in the eighth percentile. His sprint speed was in the 58th percentile, his barrel percentage in the 19th percentile. And so on.

These are the types of metrics teams use to evaluate whether a player will repeat what seemed on the surface like a good season.

In Gregorius’ case, it seems that Cashman’s scouts were right to push for the initial trade, and the numbers correctly identified the right time to let him go.

Bringing him back on a one-year deal, if that opportunity presents itself, wouldn’t be the worst idea in the world if the team finds itself looking for a shortstop. But any commitment beyond that would seem to risk paying for his decline.

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