In Arizona, it seems that Chris Owings has won the shortstop job over incumbent Didi Gregorius. The Diamondbacks, who will soon lose starting pitcher Patrick Corbin to Tommy John surgery, will now look to trade Gregorius for a starting pitcher. GM Kevin Towers has also previously stated that the team is looking for a catcher to play behind Miguel Montero. Finally, our last rumor to speculate on comes from December, from before the Yankees signed Brian Roberts. The Yankees showed interest in Gregorius very early this offseason, and they wanted to try him at second base, keep him as a Derek Jeter backup, and then use him as a replacement in 2015.
Even before we knew that Gregorius was expendable, he made more sense for the Yankees than Owings did. As a left-handed hitter with some pull power, the shortstop has both offensive and defensive upside in the Bronx. He also showed a much more patient approach at the plate compare to Owings, as he showcased a strong 9.2 BB% in his rookie season, along with a 16.1 K%. His overall 2013 numbers weren’t too gaudy though, and after hitting just .252/.332/.373 in 2013, it’s not hard to imagine why the Diamondbacks are willing to give up on him.
There are a couple of reasons to like Gregorius’ upside. Not many teams can see power potential in him other than the Yankees, and some of his numbers, for instance his hits on groundballs and flyballs could increase in 2014. However, there are two factors limiting his bat. The first is his seeming inability to hit left-handed pitchers. One factor in acquiring Gregorius for 2014 and forward would be to split his time and use him strictly against right-handed pitchers. Kevin long needs to fix Gregorius’ swing if he’s ever to be an above average starting shortstop. His second problem comes in his 2013 decline. His wRC+ starting in April of 2013 declined from 238 to 118 (May), then 61 (June), 78 (July), 40 (August), 107 (September). Gregorius looks like an extremely streaky hitter at the moment, although we may again be working with small sample size.
He’s far from a guaranteed prospect, but at 24 years old in 2014, the shortstop offers both high quality defense and upside in his offense. The Yankees are not typically a team to take this kind of gamble with a young player, but the rumors of interest and desperation for cheap and team controlled middle infield depth make this a logical pairing. The question remains exactly what it would take to acquire him.
In the past, the Diamondbacks have shown a somewhat eclectic taste in baseball players. Their return for Justin Upton and Chris Johnson consisted of Randall Delgado, Martin Prado, and an uninspiring group of prospects. Gregorius was acquired in a bizarre trade that included top pitching prospect Trevor Bauer. This isn’t to say that Kevin Towers is willing to take less than other teams, but his trade targets may be unexpected. David Phelps and Adam Warren are the two major league ready starting pitchers that a team like the Diamondbacks would most likely be interested in, and I’d imagine that the Yankees would be willing to deal them, even with the shallow depth in the bullpen. Catching-wise, Towers has shown a trend of eyeing fiery and gritty players, and Francisco Cervelli may be his type of catcher. A Gregorius for Phelps/Warren and Cervelli swap would make sense for both teams, but as I mentioned above, honing in on GM Towers’ targets is pretty much impossible after his latest series of moves.