The Reds need to go back to the future and bring Didi Gregorius home

CINCINNATI, OH - SEPTEMBER 9: Didi Gregorius #25 of the Cincinnati Reds plays shortstop. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
CINCINNATI, OH - SEPTEMBER 9: Didi Gregorius #25 of the Cincinnati Reds plays shortstop. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images) /

It’s time for the Reds front office to go back to the future and bring Didi Gregorius home to Cincinnati.

Entering the 2021 season, the Cincinnati Reds have a glaring hole not only in the middle of the field but in their lineup as well. I’m not sure Reds General Manager Nick Krall needs a Delorean to hit 88 MPH, but if that’s what it takes to sign shortstop Didi Gregorius, it’s time Krall fires up the flux capacitor.

There’s no way to sugarcoat it, the Redlegs play at the shortstop position during the 2020 season was abysmal. Cincinnati shortstops accumulated a -0.7 bWAR last season, finishing only above the lowly Pittsburg Pirates in the National League. Needless to say, a drastic change is needed.

Don’t expect either of the Reds shortstops from last year’s campaign to see time in the Queen City next season. Freddy Galvis is a free agent and 22-year-old rookie José García appears destined for more time in the minors while he develops his offensive game.

This begs the question as to who will be the Cincinnati Reds Opening Day shortstop in 2021? The obvious answer is former Redleg Didi Gregorius. The 30-year-old native of the Netherlands made his major league debut during the 2012 season appearing in eight games for the NL Central Division champions.

Following the 2012 campaign, Gregorius was part of a three-way trade between the Cincinnati Reds, Arizona Diamondbacks, and Cleveland Indians. Gregorius went to Arizona with the Diamondbacks shipping Trevor Bauer to the Indians, while Shin Soo-Choo left northeast Ohio for the southwest corner of the Buckeye state.

After spending two seasons in the desert, Gregorius was traded to the New York Yankees where he blossomed. Playing five seasons in the Big Apple, Gregorius slashed .269/.313/.446 with 97 homers and 360 RBIs. The left-handed-hitting slugger blasted more than 20 home runs in three consecutive seasons as a member of the Bronx Bombers.

Unfortunately, Gregorius suffered a severe elbow injury in 2019, which required Tommy John surgery. It was terrible timing for the shortstop as he was preparing to hit the open market as a free agent for the 2020 season.  As a result, he accepted a one-year deal with the Phillies to prove he was healthy and help re-establish his value.

Let’s just say his value has been re-established. Appearing in all 60 games last season for the Phillies, Gregorius slashed .284/.339/.488 with 10 round-trippers and 40 RBIs. The rest of the baseball world took notice. Heading into free agency this winter, MLB Trade Rumors predicted a three-year $39M deal for the shortstop.

This is where Nick Krall earns his paycheck. Is that a price the Reds can even afford to pay? The answer is a resounding, yes. Despite all indications pointing to the Reds reducing their payroll, which topped $140M last season, signing Didi Gregorius at his projected rate should not be an issue.

Current estimates have the Reds payroll in the neighborhood of $116M for the upcoming season. Adding Gregorius for $13M annually still puts the club well under their 2020 payroll mark. This leads to the ultimate question Nick Krall will face in the offseason.

Should the Cincinnati Reds pay the projected price for Didi Gregorius? Again, the answer is a resounding, yes. The shortstop position is Cincinnati’s most glaring weakness. In addition, they need to add a bat to the middle of the order for one of the worst hitting teams in the senior circuit. Gregorius checks both of those boxes.

Adding the former farmhand will also in no way impede José García’s development. As we saw in 2020, García’s raw talent is obvious, however, it was also plainly clear he’s not ready to be an everyday player at the major league level. Gregorius provides the ultimate insurance policy.

Having Gregorius man the shortstop position gives the front office the luxury of letting García develop without the temptation to rush him to the majors like they did this past season. Eventually, José García will be the Reds everyday shortstop, but the club needs to put him in a position to succeed. That means more time honing his skills in the minors.

Entering the 2021 season there’s no reason Cincinnati should not be able to compete for a second consecutive playoff berth. Even without Trevor Bauer and Anthony DeSclafani, the team still has an above-average rotation and a stellar back end of the bullpen. Nevertheless, there’s a crater in the Reds diamond that needs to be filled.

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I doubt it will take an Enchantment Under the Sea type of event to bring Didi Gregorius back to Cincinnati, but if that’s what it takes, I recommend Nick Krall brushing up on his Johnny B. Goode licks.