Shortstop Didi Gregorius has a season to remember for the Yankees in 2017 and sparks the question: should a contract extension be on the team’s to-do list this offseason?
He won’t hit the free agent market this season, but he is eligible for arbitration again before 2018 and will be a free agent come 2020 — his age 31 season. So far, Didi has earned roughly nine million dollars over six major league seasons. After a season in which he’s verified himself as a premier shortstop, he’s deserving of a huge payday.
The 27-year-old established career highs with 73 runs scored, 25 home runs and 87 runs batted in while also leading the team with 44 multi-hit games. All while missing the season’s first month with a right shoulder strain. Gregorius also set a franchise record for home runs in a single season by a shortstop, surpassing Derek Jeter’s record set in 1999. He also hit 20 in 2016, making him the first Yankees shortstop to hit 20 homers in back-to-back seasons.
Gregorius’ success carried into postseason play, as he hit three home runs and seven runs batted in across 13 games including two in Game 5 of the American League Division Series, where he became the first hitter since Carlos Beltran (2004 NLDS) to hit a pair of dingers in Game 5 of a division series.
Overall, we have been seeing a constant improvement from the knighted shortstop. His slugging percentage has gone up each season he’s been in New York (since 2015) and his wRC+ of 107 last season established a career-high. He’ll be 28-years-old when Opening Day rolls around and it’s certainly rational to assume Gregorius’ ascension as one of the best shortstops in the majors will continue.
The perfect deal for Gregorius looks like the contract fellow shortstop Jean Segura signed with the Seattle Mariners in June. At 27-years-old, Segura earned a five-year, $70 million contract extension with just two years before he would hit the open market. Segura led the National League in hits (203) in 2016 and slashed .300/.349/.427, as he gave Seattle a legitimate talent at shortstop at a solid age, good price and until 2023.
If Cashman can get Gregorius to agree to a four-year extension this offseason, it would accommodate his two remaining arbitration-eligible years (2019-20) as well as two seasons of free agency (2021-22). This gives one of the top shortstops in the league a well-deserved raise while presenting him an opportunity to test free agency in his early 30s.
For New York, this gives them a lovable, elite shortstop in his prime for the foreseeable future at a reasonable price. It also gives them the ability to not rush shortstop prospects like Gleyber Torres and Thairo Estrada, who are both in delicate places in their development.
The Yankees also won’t be fastened into a mega-deal if Gregorius’ production has already peaked. Even in that case, they’d take 20-25 home runs, a .275-plus batting average and superb fielding from the shortstop position Both the cost-efficiency and relatively short commitment bode well for the organization.