If Didi Gregorius heads elsewhere this offseason — which now seems a distinct possibility – the Yankees won’t get anything in return.
That was ensured Monday when the club did not extend the shortstop the $17.8 million qualifying offer by the 5 p.m. deadline.
The Yankees did not extend the offer to any of their free agents, a group that also includes Austin Romine, Dellin Betances and Brett Gardner.
When a team extends the qualifying offer to one of its players who has become a free agent, it guarantees itself draft-pick compensation if the free agent receiving it signs with another team.
And while there’s nothing preventing the Yankees from re-signing Gregorius, 29, not extending the offer to him could be a sign that the club is prepared to move on at the position. It could be an indication of preparations to redirect the money not spent on Gregorius into a serious run at one of the top-of-the-rotation pitchers on the market (trade or free agent).
The Yankees believe second baseman Gleyber Torres, 22, is capable of taking over at short – he came up as a shortstop in the Cubs' organization and spent much of the first two months of the 2019 season there as Gregorius recovered from Tommy John surgery — and they are more than comfortable with the versatile DJ LeMahieu, a three-time Gold Glove winner at second with the Rockies, playing there again full-time.
The Yankees never considered the qualifying offer for Romine, Betances or Gardner, but there was some thought that Gregorius, with whom the Yankees discussed an extension last offseason, might get it. In the end, however, Gregorius’ disappointing 2019 seems to have led them not to make the offer.
After returning in early June from surgery, Gregorius never looked the same in the field and or at the plate, compiling a .238/.276/.441 slash line with 16 homers and 61 RBIs in 82 games. The previous four seasons with the Yankees, Gregorius averaged 144 games per year, had 81 home runs and 299 RBIs, produced an average slash line of .274/.319/.447 and displayed a cannon of an arm.
If 2019 was his last season in a Yankees uniform, Gregorius will be known as the player who, after some initial struggles, seamlessly took over for the iconic Derek Jeter, who retired after the 2014 season.
CC Sabathia, who retired after the Yankees’ loss to the Astros in this year’s ALCS and who played with both Jeter and Gregorius, never passed on an opportunity to praise Gregorius.
“If he wasn’t doing what he’s doing and what he’s done, people would be talking about Derek Jeter and all that stuff,” Sabathia said in a 2017 interview. “And you don’t hear that. At all. And it’s because he’s one of the best shortstops in the league. If not the best.”