PHILADELPHIA -- Didi Gregorius is officially back, which means everything is mostly set in the Phillies’ lineup.
The team on Wednesday announced his two-year, $28 million contract. Gregorius is expected to be the final major offseason acquisition for the Phillies, who continue to look for bench bats and bullpen help before Spring Training opens next week in Clearwater, Fla. (They agreed this week to Minor League contracts with right-hander Brandon Kintzler and outfielder Matt Joyce.) Gregorius’ return leaves a potent 2020 offense intact, which is a good thing. Because while the Phillies believe they have upgraded their pitching staff, they will need to score runs in bunches to compete in a stacked National League East.
“We have the players,” Gregorius said about the team’s postseason chances on Wednesday. “It can always get better, but we have the players and if everybody does the job they are supposed to do, I think we are definitely going to be there. The team is good.”
For what it is worth, Baseball Prospectus’ PECOTA projections rank the Phillies third in the NL East behind the Mets and Nationals.
Yes, it projects the defending champion Braves to finish fourth.
Maybe PECOTA just loves the fact that Gregorius and J.T. Realmuto are back after the Phillies indicated early this offseason that they might lose both because of a severely slashed payroll.
It turns out almost nobody in baseball spent more money this offseason than the Phillies.
They really had no choice other than to bring back Gregorius once free-agent shortstops Andrelton Simmons and Marcus Semien signed one-year contracts elsewhere. The Phillies simply did not have an ideal internal replacement. Sure, they could have moved Jean Segura to shortstop, but he is better served at second base.
The Phillies also prefer that Scott Kingery earn his playing time in 2021.
“Jean definitely has the upper hand there,” Phillies manager Joe Girardi said about Segura over Kingery at second base. “Jean played really well there and with the addition of Didi now that’s kind of our plans -- Jean’s going to play second base, and Scotty is going to fight for his playing time all over the field, in a sense. Scotty is versatile, which allows us to give guys days off. We can move him around.”
Center field is the only position up for grabs this spring. It could be a battle among Kingery, Roman Quinn, Adam Haseley and possibly even Odúbel Herrera. Phillies president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski said they have not decided whether Herrera will come to camp, but it is getting serious consideration.
Herrera is not on the 40-man roster after his May 2019 arrest on a charge of simple assault of his girlfriend. The charge was dismissed, but Major League Baseball suspended Herrera 85 games for violating the league’s domestic abuse policy. The Phillies removed Herrera from the 40-man roster in January 2020, first designating him for assignment and then outrighting him to Triple-A. He was not in the Phillies’ 60-man player pool last season.
“We’re working on some things from a personal perspective,” Dombrowski said. “Those are things that are really between us from a confidential perspective. We’re just working through some details there. I really can’t say much more than that.”
Even if Herrera is not in the mix, the Phillies will be hoping somebody asserts himself in center field.
“We're not sure who's going to take hold of it,” Girardi said. “And in saying that, you could take hold of it in Spring Training, but you have to continue to produce, because there's going to be other guys that are trying to get that spot. So that will definitely be a competition.
“You’re looking for some to just say, 'Hey, this is mine and you’re not taking it.'”
If everybody is healthy, the Phillies’ lineup could look like this on Opening Day:
- Andrew McCutchen, LF
- Rhys Hoskins, 1B
- Bryce Harper, RF
- J.T. Realmuto, C
- Didi Gregorius, SS
- Alec Bohm, 3B
- Jean Segura, 2B
- Roman Quinn/Adam Haseley/Scott Kingery/Odúbel Herrera CF