As expected, there's a lot of discussion out there regarding the Yanks - Tigers - Diamondbacks second three-way (trade, you people) in the last few years. You know, the one that lands us a new shortstop. While this puts the team back in the market for pitching (a very deep end of the pool), it takes us out of "Stephen Drew (that wasn't fun, was it?)/Asdrubal Cabrera (no, just no)/Brendan Ryan (living on an outdated reputation only, along with 1/4 the Yanks 40-man)/some other guy" trade market. I still think Everth Cabrera (PED, DUI, other unsavory things) was worth a cheap dip in the unpatrolled, non-tendered kiddie pool, but alas, the Yanks decided to go get one of the guys they apparently wanted for quite some time: Didi Gregorius.
While I, and others, will miss Shane Greene, I'm not heartbroken. We needed a legitimate shortstop more and there's LOTS of pitching to go after, either high-priced or bargain-bin.
So here's what they are saying about the deal, from the Yanks side of the ledger:
From Keith Law at ESPN (Insider access required for full article):
The New York Yankees get a player Kevin Towers once compared -- unfairly -- to Derek Jeter to serve as Jeter's replacement. Didi Gregorius is an excellent defensive shortstop with great actions and plenty of arm, and his glove alone will provide more value to the Yankees in 2015 than they got from Jeter during his final season at the position. He doesn't have much upside with the bat, showing little patience and below-average power, although his hand-eye is good enough to make up for some length in his swing from his load to contact. He's a fringy runner, although you'll see pitchers throw to first all the time when he reaches base as if he were the Curaçaoan Billy Hamilton. He's cheap, has five years of control left, and can handle the position defensively, so he's exactly what the Yankees needed at shortstop right now even if he never turns out to be more than an average regular. Giving up a 26-year-old fourth starter to fill that hole is a no-brainer for the Yanks, and spares them from overpaying for a Stephen Drew or having to give up prospect depth to trade for a more famous solution.
From Steve Adams at MLBTR:
Gregorius, who turns 25 in February, has a good defensive reputation but comes with some question marks regarding his bat. In his age-24 season with the D-Backs, Gregorius batted .226/.290/.363 with six homers and three steals in 299 plate appearances. Overall, he’s compiled a .243/.313/.366 batting line over parts of three seasons in the Majors, showing stretches of offensive potential at times. For instance, Gregorius batted .275/.341/.403 in the first half of the 2013 season with a reasonable .313 BABIP, suggesting that his production wasn’t inflated heavily by luck. However, he followed that up with a .207/.314/.314 second half. He’ll obviously have large shoes to fill in New York as the Yankees hope that he can be a long-term replacement to Derek Jeter. Gregorius is controlled through the 2019 season, giving the Yankees at least five full seasons of his services if he proves that he can handle the job.
For the Yankees, this places an even larger need on acquiring starting pitching, either via free agency or trade, this offseason. Greene’s departure leaves New York with Masahiro Tanaka (whose elbow health is up in the air), CC Sabathia (coming off knee surgery), Ivan Nova (coming off Tommy John surgery), Michael Pineda (who has been plagued by shoulder problems) and David Phelps as potential rotation pieces. The decision to move Greene in order to address shortstop isn’t necessarily the result of a faulty thought process, however. The free agent and trade markets are both stacked with starting pitching options this winter, while there’s little in the way of shortstop talent available (particularly if one feels that Asdrubal Cabrera and Jed Lowrie are better equipped to play second base). Gregorius will team with Martin Prado either up the middle or on the left side of the infield (depending on how New York’s pursuit of Chase Headley ultimately concludes), with Mark Teixeira hoping to return to health at first base. If they elect to use Prado at third and give Rob Refsnyder a shot at second base, as the Post’s George A. King III and others have speculated, then it stands to reason that the primary focus from this point forth will be pitching upgrades, both in the rotation and in the bullpen.
As a player, he looks a lot like Elvis Andrus, though with a bit less speed and probably a little less glove. Still, nothing wrong with having Andrus Light as your shortstop, especially at the league minimum and with five years of team control. It is worth noting that Gregorius has enough service time that he’ll qualify as a Super Two player next winter, so he’ll get a little more expensive than a traditional 1+ service time player.
The Yankees get a solid young starting shortstop who can probably project around league average and has some upside beyond that...
In a nutshell, the trade plugs the Yankees’ shortstop hole with a young player who can actually play above-average defense and may improve at the plate. It also creates an even bigger hole in the rotation — Greene was the only MLB starter on New York’s roster without some kind of injury concern heading into 2015. The Yankees needed rotation help before the trade and they need even more now. It seems like they will dip into free agency to take care of that. Plenty of arms still available.
The Yankees are clearly hoping Gregorius, a left-handed hitter, can get back to his 2013 level of production and improve on it going forward. It’s worth noting Gregorius does draw a fair amount of walks (career 8.1 BB%) without striking out much (16.9 K%), and those are two traits that generally portend well for the future. He hasn’t hit lefties at all as a big leaguer though — 33 wRC+ against lefties and 102 wRC+ against righties.
In the field, Gregorius is considered an above-average defender by scouts while the various stats say he’s been about average if not a tick below so far in the show. I wouldn’t take the numbers to heart right now given the relatively small sample size. “He has smooth actions, plus range and a sniper rifle of an arm. His arm rates as a 70 on the 20-80 scouting scale, allowing him to make plays from deep in the hole that other shortstops can’t,” said Baseball America (subs. req’d) when they ranked him Cincinnati’s fifth best prospect following the 2012 season, before the trade to Arizona.
Jason Cohen at Pinstripe Alley has all the Twitter reax, including mine!
If you pro-rate Gregorius’ numbers, he had 70 good plays per 1,000 innings, a rate better than any of the 35 shortstops who played the most innings last season.
Gregorius’ ratio of good plays to misplays and errors is also a positive. He ranked sixth-best with a 1.71 to 1 ratio.
By comparison, Yankees shortstops combined for 35 good fielding plays and 41 defensive misplays and errors last season. They had the third-fewest good fielding plays and the fourth-worst good play/misplay ratio among all teams.
I like this trade for the Yankees. Gregorius will be, at his worst, as good as Derek Jeter was on offense in 2014 and his 2013 hitting suggests he can be better than that, even if he’s never a particularly dangerous hitter. That plus a defensive game which is streets ahead of anything Jeter did in, oh, the past 15 years, will make him a nice upgrade over The Captain, all for a very low, low salary. This is way better than signing, say, Stephen Drew and hoping he can return to old form or trading for a big name like Elvis Andrus who will cost a lot and not be as good as his reputation. Gregorius is a legit shortstop who is team-controlled. Those don’t grow on trees.
Of course, even if he’s a better hitter and defender and he’s cheaper, there will be a certain segment of Yankees fans which will be on his case for anything he does because he’s not Derek Jeter. Which sucks, but which is inevitable. As someone once said, don’t replace the man, replace the man who replaces the man. Someone has to play shortstop in New York in a post-Jeter world, and unfortunately for Gregorius, it’s him.
Note to my reader-friends: Don't be THAT GUY and hate on Didi because he's not Jeter. Applaud him because he's not any of the slugs that we MIGHT have had. Give the guy a chance, will ya?!?
UPDATE 12/6/14: Jeff Sullivan of Fangraphs:
For the Yankees, it’s Gregorius for Greene. They lose a year of service time, and Gregorius will cost millions before Greene will, but these are lesser considerations, and also, it’s the Yankees — they can afford it. It comes down to getting a shortstop with questions for a pitcher with questions. Both are big-league caliber players, but given the relative risks, it makes sense to take the position player over the arm with only a short record of success.
Somewhat famously, Kevin Towers once drew parallels between Gregorius and Derek Jeter, so in that way it’s fitting that Gregorius will serve as Jeter’s replacement. Gregorius and Jeter don’t actually have that much in common, but then Jeter’s one of the best shortstops ever, and Gregorius is capable of starting. While Jeter, clearly, represents an offensive threshold Gregorius will never approach, Yankees fans who grew accustomed to Jeter’s defense will suddenly start noticing fewer base hits to center and left.
Defense is Gregorius’ greatest strength, even if it hasn’t necessarily shown up yet in the numbers. His reputation exceeds his statistics, and while historically that burned us in evaluating a young Yuniesky Betancourt, Gregorius has all the physical skills to be a plus shortstop in the field. It’s safe to consider him at least average, and probably better, and he’s very quick on his feet. The Fan Scouting Report results have been fond of him; he just ranked tied for being the sixth-best shortstop. He’s credited with having a strong arm and consistent, steady hands.
As with so many talented defensive infielders, the questions are about the bat. Gregorius owns an 84 wRC+, projecting for 86. He makes only an average amount of contact, and somewhat surprisingly he’s been a fly-ball hitter. He’s neither patient nor a hacker, and all of his power exists to the pull side. But that’s a good thing for him in New York, with right field beckoning, so Gregorius should have a fine transition to the ballpark. It’s worth noting that Gregorius has been mostly acceptable against righties, but he’s been a mess against southpaws. It’s way too early in his career to make too much of that, but in the season ahead, the Yankees could spell Gregorius sometimes with Brendan Ryan, without losing anything in the field.
An issue is that Greene projected to be a member of the Yankees’ starting rotation. So one hole has been plugged and another has now been opened. But there are more pitchers available than there are shortstops, especially promising long-term shortstops, and the Yankees can afford to take on extra pitcher salary if they want to. In the big-picture view, Greene is only a few months removed from seeming like a non-factor, so the Yankees did well to turn a new asset into a needed asset.
[I will add more commentary as I come across it. If you see something that's particularly insightful, please note it in the comments or email me the link]