Over their illustrious history, the New York Yankees have had their fair share of great infielders. Names like Derek Jeter, Robinson Cano, Phil Rizzuto and even Alex Rodriguez come to mind, three of those were shortstops (although Alex Rodriguez played 3rd base for the Yankees). Who would have guessed that when Brian Cashman acquired a 24-year-old unproven shortstop from Amsterdam, Netherlands in December of 2014 at the request of Gene Michael who was instrumental in the Yankees dynasty runs of the late 90s through the early 2000s, he would become the best trade Brian Cashman has made in his history? A history that included trades for guys like Scott Brosius, David Justice, Alex Rodriguez, Aroldis Chapman, and many others.
The year is 2014, Yankees icon and future hall of famer Derek Jeter had just retired, the Yankees were in need of a shortstop to take over for him. In December of 2014, general manager Brian Cashman dealt starting pitching prospect Shane Greene in a three-way trade with the Arizona Diamondbacks and Detroit Tigers. Gregorius, who was by all accounts a wizard defensively but had questions with the bat, mainly would hit against right-handed pitching. Gregorius was coming off a season where he hit .227 with six HRs and 27 RBI in 80 games with Arizona, there was talk of platooning him with Brendan Ryan as he struggled to hit left-handed pitching.
Over his first season with the Yankees, Didi improved from his previous season with the Diamondbacks when he hit .265, with nine home runs and 56 RBI, hardly what anyone would expect from the Yankees shortstop, but fans at the time were spoiled by having Derek Jeter man that position since 1996 through the 2014 season in which the Yankees won five World Series championships. However, over the following two seasons, Didi hit 45 homers (22.5 per year) and drove in 157 runs (78.5) and his hitting improved abundantly vs left-handed pitching. As a matter of fact, Gregorius became a better hitter vs left-handed pitching than right-handed pitching. The Yankees had their next long-term shortstop, the power that scouts said Didi would one day develop had arrived and the glove was still as good as ever. Furthermore, Didi is just now entering his prime age of baseball years at 28-years-old, so there’s a good chance he can become an even better player and he’s off to a heck of a start in the 2018 season to prove that.
The start of the 2018 season has started even better for Didi, he leads all Major Leaguers in RBI with 27 through his first 22 games, and has already hit eight HRs along with a .358 average and a 1.229 OPS. He is also first on the Yankees in home runs despite having monster sluggers such as Gary Sanchez, Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton. He’s on pace to have a season better than 2016 in which he hit 25 home runs and drove in 87 despite missing the first month of the season.
When you factor in the scouting it took to predict , the minimal return that Brian Cashman had to give up, the pressure of having to fill Derek Jeter’s shoes, and the production he has given the Yankees over the last two seasons, as well as the start he’s off to in 2018 its pretty clear that not only do the Yankees have their long-term shortstop in Gregorius but it will possibly go down as the best trade made by general manager Brian Cashman.