On Wednesday, president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski held the end-of-season press conference and discussed various offseason plans and problems that they will attempt to solve ahead of next year.
One such issue is Gregorius, who struggled in his second season with the team, putting up some of the worst numbers of his 10-year career. In 103 games, he hit .209/.270/.370 with a .639 OPS, 35 runs scored, 16 doubles, two triples, 13 home runs, and 54 RBI.
This is a stark contrast to his 2020 numbers (.284/.339/.488, .827 OPS, appearing in all 60 games), which led to the Phillies re-signing him two a lucrative two-year deal valued at $28 million over the winter. The move looks like an expensive mistake; his 2021 batting average and on-base percentage were the lowest marks of his career, and only three shortstops were worse than him in defensive runs saved.
Dave Dombrowski says the Phillies are not sure Didi Gregorius will be their shortstop in 2022
Dombrowski did not mince words when discussing Gregorius and the possibility of sidelining or even replacing him:
"“It very well could be him. But he knows, we’ve had a discussion with him, that he needs to be better.We’re in a position where we also are going to be open-minded to what’s going to take place at shortstop next year. It could be internal. It could be him if he comes back.”“We need to get better at shortstop. We need to, if it’s internally or externally, whatever it may be, we need to do that.”"
The “if he comes back” is significant there, as is “internally or externally.” As mentioned, Gregorius is owed another $14 million in 2022 for the second and final year of his two-season deal. With his poor stats this season and the money he’s owed, it would be difficult to find a team willing to trade for him. Of course, they could release him and eat the money, but that would be a tough pill to swallow.
Are the Phillies planning to target a top free-agent shortstop like Correa, Baez, Story, or Seager this offseason?
It’s worth noting that this winter’s free-agent class is stacked with superstar shortstops; Javy Baez, Carlos Correa, Corey Seager, and Trevor Story will all be available. After a full decade without postseason play, the Phillies would likely jump at the chance to upgrade every way they can.
Could that be why Gregorius dropped this cryptic tweet on Thursday?
Maybe it’s more about wanting to upgrade than it is about Gregorius’ struggles.
Didi Gregorius believes the COVID-19 vaccine caused his elbow injuries that led to his struggles with the Phillies in 2021
Gregorius could also be alluding to the COVID-19 vaccine, which he previously blamed for his struggles this season, but the timing of his tweet so close to Dombrowski’s statement would suggest it’s about the latter.
In September, Gregorius said that he had developed pseudogout, a form of arthritis that causes painful swelling, in his right elbow. He told the Philadelphia Inquirer:
"“Some people say it’s from the vaccine. I will say it’s likely from that, too.”"
Numerous medical experts refuted Gregorius’ claim. One said that even if that sort of reaction were to occur, it would be a brief issue. Likely not something that would impact an entire MLB season.
While Dombrowski said that Gregorius “needs” to be better, there’s also the question of if he can be. But since so many top shortstops are about to become available, it feels like there’s more to this story.