The twenty-year reign of Derek Jeter at shortstop for the New York Yankees may soon be equaled, or perhaps even superseded, by Didi Gregorius.
When you think of the 2018 New York Yankees, names like Giancarlo Stanton, Luis Severino, and Aaron Judge are most likely to come to mind. But lurking in the background is bound to be one of the steadiest and most upward rising Yankee of them all: shortstop Didi Gregorius.
At 27-years-old, Gregorius has plotted for himself an ever-rising series of numbers during his brief three-year tenure with the Yankees. Since coming over to the team in a three-way trade with the Arizona Diamondbacks and Detroit Tigers for right-handed starter Shane Green, Didi is poised to place himself as one of the all-time greats in the annals of Yankees history.
Believe it, it’s true.
Hailing from the Netherlands and in his second year of arbitration, based on the numbers he has produced for the Yankees, Gregorius is due to a healthy raise from the $5.1 million he earned in 2017. And the Yankees are liable to recognize the sky only points upward when it comes to monies Gregorius will command in the future. And therefore, we can expect to see a quiet but concerted effort on the part of the team to lock him up with a long-term contract.
But that’s not what this all about. Instead, it’s about having a player who possesses all the tools to replace a Yankees icon in Derek Jeter. And if you were like me when Jeter stepped off the field in 2014 (video below), I never thought it could be done. Now, I am not quite so sure.
Gregorius will likely not reach those heights, but he is scheduled to come darn close. While not equalling Jeter in the hits department, Gregorius has seen a surge in the power department with twenty and twenty-five home runs over the last two seasons.
Couple that with the fact Jeter, in his best season ever as a Yankee in 1999, hit only 24 home runs and we have the makings of a shortstop star along the lines of Cal Ripken, or pardon the expression, Alex Rodriguez, when it comes to the power department.
But enough with the manufactured comparisons I am boldly attempting because it’s not really about that. The two players are not similar, and Jeter will forever have his place in the annals of Yankees history, one he richly deserves.
Instead, this is more about a player who came to New York under the shadow of Jeter and excelled with no hiccups in between. And it’s about a player who will man the most crucial position in the Yankees infield for the next decade.
It’s about a player who hides in the Yankees lineup, lurking beneath the devasting power of Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, and now Giancarlo Stanton. When an opposing pitcher gets beyond that trio, looking for a breather, there is no breather. There’s only Didi.
Will Gregorius, when his Yankees days are over ever receive the attention and accolades Jeter engendered? Or, will he ever earn more than a glance when it comes to the Hall of Fame? Probably not. But his stamp on the Yankees dependence on a shortstop who can hold the infield together will, most assuredly, be engrained.
And for that reason alone, Didi Gregorius should be held as a treasure the Yankees are fortunate to have in their fold. Derek Jeter considered – or not.