TAMPA, Fla. — That much of the offseason attention and hype has gone primarily elsewhere in the American League, to the Red Sox especially, is just fine with Didi Gregorius.
“It’s good to fly under the radar,” the Yankees shortstop said Tuesday. “I believe in this team, I’ll tell you that.”
Gregorius is coming off a career-best season in which he posted a .276/.304/.447 slash line, including career highs in homers (20) and RBIs (70). He showed up at the club’s minor- league complex Tuesday morning, 11 days before Yankees position players are scheduled to report.
The 26-year-old, who took batting practice before doing infield work, is enthusiastic about the franchise’s shift toward younger, more athletic players. Gregorius was near the forefront of that move when he was acquired before the 2015 season to replace the retired Derek Jeter.
“It’s good to see the youth movement,” said Gregorius, who will miss time in spring training because he’ll be competing for the Netherlands in next month’s World Baseball Classic. “It’s always great to be a part of it. It’s going to be a really fun team. Everybody saw what we did last year the second half with all the young guys that we had.”
The Yankees all but surrendered 2016 at the trade deadline, dealing Aroldis Chapman, Andrew Miller and Carlos Beltran for highly regarded prospects who have their farm system ranked among baseball’s best.
But while the trades signaled retreat outside the clubhouse, inside it there was an opposite effect. The Yankees were 52-52 on July 31, and seven games behind in the East, but went on a 24-13 run that had them within three games of first place on Sept. 10 and on the periphery of the wild card. Losses in seven of their next eight games ended any hopes of a playoff spot, but the post-deadline surge allowed many players, though disappointed in missing the postseason, to head into the offseason feeling good about 2017.
“Last year they said we had no chance to be there, then we gave everybody a scare at the end,” Gregorius said.
As for his 2016, Gregorius characterized it as “really good,” but far from fulfilling.
“I could always do better,” he said. “I’m never satisfied with what I do, always trying to take that next step. The game is not easy. Still have to (work), so I still have to do the right things and try to stay consistent. I think that’s the hardest part of the game.”