Cincinnati Reds: Analytics trend away from Didi Gregorius at shortstop

WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 22: Didi Gregorius #18 of the Philadelphia Phillies fields the ball. (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 22: Didi Gregorius #18 of the Philadelphia Phillies fields the ball. (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)

The Cincinnati Reds need a shortstop. However, if you’re a fan of analytics, you may not be very high on free agent Didi Gregorius. Like it or not, analytics have taken over the game of baseball, and some of the advanced metrics suggest Gregorius may not be the ideal candidate to take over at shortstop for Cincinnati.

The Reds have been rumored to be in on all three of the top free agent shortstops at some point during the offseason. Gregorius’ name was the first to emerge, but recent reports suggest Cincinnati has been involved in negotiations with Marcus Semien. Just this past week, the Reds were said to be interested in signing Andrelton Simmons.

Why should the Reds avoid signing Didi Gregorius?

The most complete shortstop in the game already has a new home. Francisco Lindor was dealt to the New York Mets earlier this winter. While Cincinnati was mentioned as a possible destination for the four-time All-Star, nothing ever materialized.

Of the three free agent options available, Gregorius is recognized as the best choice if your team is looking for an offensive-minded shortstop. Simmons represents the best defensive shortstop on the list, and Semien is arguably the best all-around player of the three.

However, while Gregorius has put up solid offensive numbers in the past, some of his numbers are trending in the wrong direction. If the Reds are interested in an offensive upgrade at shortstop, the former Cincinnati farmhand might not be the answer.

Didi Gregorius’ exit velocity was way down in 2020.

It’s hard to fully evaluate any player based solely on statistics from last year’s abbreviated 60-game season, but that’s what scouts and front office executives have in front of them. Looking at Gregorius’ drop in exit velocity, Cincinnati’s front office may want to think twice before signing the former New York Yankees’ infielder.

Take a trip over to FanGraphs, and you’ll see that Gregorius’ exit velocity took a nosedive in 2020. After posting an average exit velocity of 88-MPH in 2019, that number dropped to 83.7-MPH. Gregorius’ hard hit percentage (the percentage of batted balls with an exit velocity of 95-MPH or higher), dropped from 35.5% in 2019 to 26.8% in 2020.

That should give Nick Krall and the entire Cincinnati Reds front office cause to pause. Now, before you ask, yes, both Andrelton Simmons and Marcus Semien saw a drop in both statistics as well. Simmons’ exit velocity dropped from 87.8-MPH to 86.5-MPH. Semien, who had an MVP type season in 2019, saw his exit velocity fall from 88.9-MPH to 86.2-MPH.

Didi Gregorius likely to sign with Reds or Phillies.

All signs point to Didi Gregorius re-signing with the Philadelphia Phillies or returning home to the Cincinnati Reds. The Oakland Athletics are also in need of a shortstop. With the market beginning to dwindle, it’s likely we’ll see the three top free agent shortstops sign very soon.

According to NBC Sports Philadelphia, suggests that Didi Gregorius could sign a two-year deal worth between $20M-$30M. The Phillies may be even more likely to sign Gregorius if J.T. Realmuto bolts to sign with NL East rival Atlanta.

According to FanSided’s Robert Murray, the Braves are “circling” Realmuto, and other teams on the west coast are interested as well. If the Phillies lose their starting backstop, I can almost guarantee you they’ll shell out whatever is necessary to keep Gregorius in the City of Brotherly Love.

I would just caution the Cincinnati Reds to be leery of signing Didi Gregorius to a large, multi-year contract. MLB Trade Rumors predicted before the offseason that the Reds and Gregorius might agree to a three-year/$39M contract.

Next. Reds best shortstops over the past 50 years

A three-year deal with an average annual value (AAV) of $13M seems a bit rich to me, especially considering Cincinnati has José García on the doorstep of becoming their everyday shortstop. While the idea of bringing Didi Gregorius back home sounds a bit like a fairy tale, it may be too good to be true.