The Philadelphia Phillies, who extended their playoff drought to 10 seasons this year, will be on the prowl for a "middle-of-the-order hitter" this offseason, president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski said on Thursday, according to Matt Breem of the Philadelphia Inquirer. Dombrowski also made no promises that Didi Gregorius will open the 2022 as the Phillies' starting shortstop.
Taken together, Dombrowski's comments could be read as an indication that the Phillies will be in the market for a new shortstop. This would be a good winter to have that need, as the free-agent class is scheduled to feature Carlos Correa, Trevor Story, Corey Seager, and Javier Báez, among other star-caliber shortstops.
Even if the Phillies forego adding a new shortstop, they should be able to find a new middle-of-the-order hitter at a different position. Presuming the Phillies decline outfielder Andrew McCutchen's option, that could make them a player on someone like Nicholas Castellanos (should he opt out) or Michael Conforto. Alternatively, the Phillies could trade or move on from third baseman Alec Bohm, making them a fit for Kris Bryant or Kyle Seager (should the Seattle Mariners decline his option).
The Phillies might also get creative with what they mean by "middle-of-the-order hitter," resorting to a Mark Canha -- who could play across the diamond for them -- or a Jorge Soler type, who isn't far removed from a 48-homer season.
Alternatively, Dombrowski could have his sights set on a trade target. Whatever the case, it's not hard to understand why the Phillies would be non-committal to Gregorius. He hit .209/.270/.370 (71 OPS+) with 13 home runs and below-average defense. According to Baseball Reference's calculations, Gregorius' overall contributions were worth a win below replacement.
The Phillies signed Gregorius to a two-year pact last winter worth $28 million. As such, he's certain to remain on the organization's ledger, if not in their lineup.
Already this winter the Phillies have fired several big-league coaches and installed a new farm director in Preston Mattingly, the son of Miami Marlins skipper Don Mattingly. Dombrowski's comments suggest those will not be the only changes the Phillies make between now and next opening day.