PHILADELPHIA – Bryson Stott has been the Phillies’ shortstop of the future since the team selected him in the first round of the 2019 draft.
The future started Thursday when the team released veteran Didi Gregorius, opening the shortstop position for Stott.
Gregorius was released when the team needed a roster spot to reinstate second baseman Jean Segura from the injured list. Stott had been playing second base since Segura went down with a broken right index finger on May 31. With Segura back at his regular position for the stretch drive, Stott moves to shortstop. They were both in the starting lineup Thursday night against Washington.
Manager Rob Thomson said the decision to release Gregorius was “extremely difficult.” The two have a long history, dating to Gregorius’ time as the New York Yankees’ shortstop and Thomson’s time as a member of that club’s coaching staff.
“We had a lot of really good times, a lot of playoff games, ups and downs,” Thomson said. “I have a lot of respect for him. He’s been a really good player for a long time.”
Gregorius’ release came down to performance. The 32-year-old was hitting just .210 with one homer, 19 RBIs and .567 OPS in 214 at-bats over 63 games. Since July 1, he was hitting just .117 (9 for 77) with a .148 on-base percentage.
The Phillies ate about $5.5 million in letting Gregorius go. It’s all part of the cost of trying to get to the postseason for the first time in a decade. The Phils are already over the $230 million competitive balance tax threshold. They took on more than $7 million to add Thursday night’s starter Noah Syndergaard in a trade. It’s playoffs or bust.
“Stott is going to be the shortstop,” Thomson said. “With (backups Edmundo Sosa and Yairo Munoz), we’ve got a lot of versatility there. So, Didi was really kind of the odd man out. That doesn’t mean he’s a bad player. He’s played very well at shortstop for us. He just didn’t hit the way that he normally hits. It doesn’t mean he won’t hit in the future, but right now he’s not hitting and so we felt like we had better pieces.
“It’s a difficult decision, but, I think, the right decision.
“We’re in this thing and we’re in it for real. We’re serious about this. Hey, the game is about production. You have to produce. If you don’t, then we have to make some decisions.”
Stott played well at second base and he could still land there down the road – especially if the Phillies make a play for free agent Trea Turner in the offseason. But for the remainder of this pennant race, at least, the 24-year-old Las Vegan is the shortstop.
Stott helped make Gregorius expendable. Though he’s hitting just .196 on the season, Stott’s at-bats have gotten better as he gained more experience in his rookie season. In 181 plate appearances in June and July, he struck out just 19 times and walked 17. He has a .755 OPS in his last 18 games. Gregorius had a .378 OPS in his last 32.
“(Stott’s) at-bats over the last six weeks have been outstanding — not only against right-handers but left-handers, too,” Thomson said. “Clutch situations, he’s gotten on base. He’s had great at-bats. He’s seeing the ball well. He’s really proven to be a big-league player.”