Didi back in Philly with eyes on October

February 10th, 2021

is back in Philadelphia, and he’s eager to lead the Phillies back to October baseball.

“That’s what you play for, and that’s where you want to be," said Gregorius, whose two-year contract -- worth $28 million, a source told MLB.com -- was formally announced by the Phillies on Wednesday. “We have a group of guys that can do that. Everyone in this lineup can do damage, and everyone can help each other out. We came up short last year, but it’s a new year.”

Gregorius, who turns 31 next week, slashed .284/.339/.488 with 10 home runs, 40 RBIs and an .827 OPS while appearing in all 60 of Philadelphia’s games last year. President of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski said there were two clear priorities within the organization when he joined the Phillies this winter: re-sign J.T. Realmuto, and re-sign Gregorius. Now, each of those boxes are checked, and Philadelphia returns two major pieces of an offense that finished fifth in MLB in scoring in 2020.

“He’s one of the best shortstops in the game of baseball,” said Dombrowski of Gregorius. “Somebody that gives us a real balance as a guy in the middle of the lineup from the left-hand side. He completes our everyday lineup.”

The Phillies were active in the shortstop market throughout the winter, also checking in on free agent Andrelton Simmons before he agreed to a one-year deal with the Twins. Once Simmons, Marcus Semien and Freddy Galvis came off the board, a Phillies-Gregorius reunion became the natural fit.

Those other shortstops agreed to one-year deals, but Dombrowski said the Phillies were ultimately open to committing to Gregorius on a two-year pact, based on what they saw from him in 2020.

“We’re very comfortable [with a two-year deal] because of the type of player he is,” Dombrowski said of Gregorius. “We’re just happy to have him on board.”

Gregorius signed with the Phillies last winter after a long tenure with the Yankees, and his last year in the Bronx saw him work his way back from Tommy John surgery. manager Joe Girardi, plenty familiar with Gregorius from their time together in New York, came away from 2020 impressed by Gregorius’ arm strength following that procedure -- and he now believes Gregorius is a more complete player.

“To me, he was the same guy [on defense],” said Girardi. “But I’ve seen him improve every year as an offensive player. Didi’s a middle-of-the-order hitter now.”

For Gregorius and the Phillies, the focus now centers on reaching the postseason and getting rid of the bitter taste of missing last year’s expanded playoffs by just one game.

“That was last year,” Gregorius said of 2020. “Turn the page on that. I think now we’re good.”