In case you hadn’t heard, the New York Yankees needed a new shortstop for 2015. Derek Jeter’s retirement has left a void that will be impossible for anyone to replace, given his standing with fans and Hall of Fame credentials, but the front office addressed the situation in the best possible way. 

Instead of trying to overpay for an older free agent or try to put a marquee name at shortstop simply to placate a fan base that’s used to seeing big-money players at every position, the Yankees struck a deal to acquire Didi Gregorius in a three-team deal with Arizona and Detroit

Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports reported the deal:

Let’s get the elephant in the room out of the way. Brian Cashman said after the deal for Gregorius went down that it wasn’t a matter of trying to replace Jeter, via Marc Carig of Newsday:

Additionally, per Bob Nightengale of USA Today, Cashman also expects the Yankees to go with two shortstops when the season starts:

The point of that is to say the Yankees understand that they are getting a player in Gregorius who comes with flaws, though, he is already an upgrade over what the team got out of its shortstop in 2014. 

New York walked around with blinders on last year because Jeter is untouchable, but he wasn’t a good player on either side of the ball. Per, Yankee shortstops hit a collective .233/.287/.292 in 2014. 

While no one would confuse him with Giancarlo Stanton, Gregorius hit better than New York shortstops with a .226/.290/.363 slash line in 80 games last year. His real value lies with the glove. 

Despite what the Gold Glove awards suggest, Jeter has never been a good shortstop and was the third-lowest rated defensive player at the position by FanGraphs‘ metrics. He was charged with costing the Yankees 12 runs in the field. 

Using those same FanGraphs‘ metrics, Gregorius is vastly superior to Jeter. The sample size wasn’t as big, but the 24-year-old was average with no runs saved in 580.2 innings at shortstop. That value in the field alone makes him superior to anything the Yankees got out of anyone at the position last year. 

When you factor in money, the gap is even wider. Jeter made $12 million to post a FanGraphs‘ wins above replacement total of minus-0.3, while Gregorius’ WAR was 0.3 with a salary of $506,500 and isn’t eligible for arbitration until 2016. 

As Richard Justice of wrote, all the Yankees need Gregorius to be is what he has been on defense with a little more offense sprinkled in:

Didi Gregorius has nice range, good instincts and a big-time arm. At times, he will dazzle. Beyond that, he’ll make the plays a starting Major League shortstop is supposed to make, and if you ask a dozen Major League managers what they want from that position, this is it. 

Gregorius will help himself by playing well defensively and also by hitting some. That’s the unknown part of this deal. He’s had only 724 plate appearances in the big leagues, which is about a season and a half.

It’s not like Gregorius has no offensive skills. His plate discipline and power are below-average, but he’s not a high-strikeout hitter with 122 in 647 career at-bats. 

The Yankees have been burned in the past by their big-money contracts, so it was refreshing to see Cashman dial things back to find a practical option at shortstop. Gregorius may not stick there long-term, especially if his bat doesn’t develop the way they want. 

However, in terms of finding a player capable of handling the position who didn’t cost much in a trade and will be making a salary at or close to the league minimum in 2015, Gregorius is the perfect answer for this franchise. 


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