On Monday, MLB teams were forced to bite a tough bullet and decide whether they wanted to give out a qualifying offer to players entering the free agent market this winter on Monday. For a multitude of reasons, the New York Yankees decided not to give one to shortstop Didi Gregorius, making him a free agent without any draft pick compensation attached to him.
It was a little shocking to digest at first, seeing as Didi's a fan favorite and has a huge presence in the Yankee clubhouse. They could still decide to bring him back on a short-term deal at a lesser rate, but here are three reasons the Yankees likely won't pursue that avenue (or, rather, can't, if they're going to improve the team in other areas).
3. 2019 Numbers
You can make the argument that Gregorius' 2019 numbers are deceiving because he came back from Tommy John surgery, but he was clearly not the same hitter he once was, slashing .238/.276/.441 with 16 home runs and 61 RBI, peppered with a lot of first-pitch swinging and weak contact. After back-to-back seasons where he hit 25 or more home runs and received some MVP votes, Gregorius was a shell of himself. Maybe he bounces back, but he'll be entering his age 30 season, and 2019 could be the start of a steep decline for someone who wasn't thought to be an offense-first player anyway when he arrived in the Bronx.
2. Save Money for Pitching
It sounds odd to hear the Yankees needing/wanting to save money, but if they want to go big game hunting on the free agent market for a starting pitcher like Gerrit Cole or Stephen Strasburg, they'd be smart to not even entertain bringing Gregorius back. He might not cost the $17.8 million he could've gotten if he'd been given the qualifying offer, but I doubt he'd want less than the near $12 million he made in 2019. New York has plenty of internal options to fill the void, and it'd come at a much cheaper price. Rumor has it Gregorius doesn't want to try a cheap one-year pillow deal to help regain his value ahead of next winter, and that's likely all the Yankees would be amenable to.
1. Crowded Yankee Infield
Speaking of internal options, the Yankees have those and then some. The simple answer is to move Gleyber Torres to shortstop, his original position, and then have DJ LeMahieu play second base, where he's a Gold Glover. Third base is covered with a combination of Gio Urshela and Miguel Andujar, and they have several first base options with Luke Voit, Mike Ford, and even Greg Bird. Thairo Estrada is also an option, who can play several infield positions, and Tyler Wade is still around, if they want to give him a more everyday opportunity. At his best, Gregorius is a big-time player you want on your team, but the Yankees can look elsewhere and save money in the process. They have All-Stars, fill-in talent, and a wide variety of insurance. It's the sad truth.