For the second time this week, the Philadelphia Phillies have brought back a key free agent. First, it was catcher J.T. Realmuto; now, the Phillies have reached an agreement with shortstop Didi Gregorius on a two-year contract, according to The Athletic's Jayson Stark. The deal is believed to be worth $28 million, per Ken Rosenthal.
Gregorius entered the winter ranked by CBS Sports as the 17th best free agent available. Here's what we wrote at the time:
Take a glance at Gregorius' Baseball-Reference page, and you'll find that he had a 119 OPS+, 10 home runs, and a reduced strikeout rate in 2020, suggesting he's going to get paid. Dig a little deeper, though, and you'll find a trove of red flags concerning his offensive performance. To rattle them off: his average exit velocity was a career-worst 83.7 mph; he hit the ball 95 mph or harder as frequently as Jose Peraza and Tyler Wade did; his max exit velocity (104.7 mph) was five ticks below his '19 mark, and ranked 248th out of 257 qualified hitters; and so on. Maybe there's a sensible explanation here, but when a fair amount of a player's value is tied to hitting the ball hard ... and they're demonstrably not hitting the ball hard ... well, it's something to weigh.
As noted above, Gregorius is coming off a successful initial season with the Phillies, if only from a surface-level perspective. He hit .284/.339/.488 (119 OPS+) with 10 home runs in 60 games. It's to be seen if Gregorius' lackluster ball-tracking metrics will lead to a drop-off or cratering in his production heading forward.
With Realmuto and Gregorius back in tow, the Phillies now have to hope that their other additions, largely of the downroster variety, can make the difference between 2021 and a disappointing 2020. Dave Dombrowski and Sam Fuld have added to the bullpen by netting Archie Bradley, Jose Alvardo, and Sam Coonrod; they signed Matt Moore to be their fifth starter; and they added a few bench pieces, in C.J. Chatham and Kyler Holder.
It's unclear if the Phillies are done at this point, or if they'll make a run at adding another starting pitcher or perhaps a new center fielder -- Philadelphia has previously been connected to free agent Jackie Bradley Jr.