In the interests of due diligence, let’s start off with a reminder that the Yankees have confirmed they’ve added Joey Gallo and Joely Rodríguez to their roster, via a trade with the Texas Rangers. In exchange, the Yankees have sent minor league pitcher Glenn Otto, and infielders Ezequiel Duran, Trevor Hauver, and Josh Smith west. That’s a point on which we need to be clear before proceeding, as there hasn’t been much mention of it on the YES Network or social media.
Jokes aside, a two-time All-Star in his prime joining the sport’s most famous franchise is big news for baseball in general, but especially for the Yankees and their fans. Part of the fun involved with any trade of this nature is that it raises interesting questions and talking points about which we can all bloviate.
Let’s start with what this means for the Yankees. That’s a simple one – the Yankees are adding a very good, young baseball player who won’t create concerns for their precious luxury tax threshold for a year and a half. Additionally, they were able to do it without losing anyone on their active roster, or anyone who would have been a contributor on the big league level anytime soon. (To be clear, that isn’t to say the aforementioned players are not good prospects — just not players who were expected to be in pinstripes soon.)
Gallo is a very good right fielder, ranking in the 95th percentile in Outs Above Average, and although has only played right this season, he’s logged over 50 career games at all three outfield positions and both corner infield positions. So “Where is he going to play?” isn’t a concern. He’s also a plus baserunner who almost never hits into double plays and has performed very well with runners in scoring position and two outs. In other words, he moves the needle in the right direction in many areas of need and frustration for the Yankees and their fans.
Yet Gallo’s biggest strength is, of course, his bat. He currently ranks among the top 10 in the AL in OPS+ and wRC+, and if you’re more into traditional stats, he’s also in the AL’s top ten in home runs and OBP. Yet fans who have concerns about the direction of the sport must beware, as his production comes in a manner that some fans don’t find aesthetically pleasing: In addition to the home runs, Gallo both walks and strikes out very, very often. If you’re someone who’s been concerned the Yankees have too many “all-or-nothing” batters, Gallo isn’t going to alleviate your concern. Hopefully, the overall results assuage any issues about the manner in which runs are scored.
Of course, any action comes with a reaction, and in baseball, one player arriving means another one needs to leave. Estevan Florial has already been returned to the minors, and with Anthony Rizzo also needing to be added to the roster, both Ryan LaMarre and Greg Allen are likely dealing with some anxiety right now, too. Additionally, I’m not the Yankees’ GM, but if I were, I’d pour a Wild Turkey and explain to all involved that although I’m a card-carrying member of the Brett Gardner Fan Club, it might be time for a change. As Roger Jongewaard said in Moneyball, “Some of us are told at 18, some of us are told at 40 — but we’re all told.” It might be time to tell Brett that he can no longer play the children’s game.
If you’re a skeptic by nature as I am, let’s play devil’s advocate: “Gallo can’t pitch and he can’t solve the problem of underperforming teammates, so is this really a big deal?”
Those are fair points to be sure, but they’re also largely straw man arguments. Nobody is ordering World Series rings as a result of this acquisition or ignoring the Yankees' other flaws. Still, it would be very hard to argue that this is not a good step in the right direction. Depending upon which version of WAR you prefer, Gallo is on pace for between five and seven wins this season. For some reference, that’s approximately five to seven wins more than Gardner’s pace.
Let’s do more devil’s advocate skepticism: “We’re not even two-thirds through 2021. Is it possible Gallo may not be as good as some of his current numbers suggest and he may come down to earth?”
Again, a legitimate question. When Gallo had his breakout season in 2019 (a season in which he likely would have been in the MVP discussion had it not been for a midseason wrist injury), he had a BABIP almost 100 points higher than his career average, which likely would not have been sustained. So far in 2021, his DRC+ is significantly lower than his OPS+ and wRC+, which may suggest his results owe some gratitude to the gods of randomness, and a slight regression may be expected in August and September.
Even if true, the above only means is that Gallo is “merely” a very good, All-Star-caliber player who is a massive upgrade over the Yankees' other options. He’s a two-time All-Star, Gold Glove winner who is in his prime at age 27, is not a financial strain, and doesn’t cost any major leaguers or near-ready prospects in return. The difference between being an MVP candidate and merely providing All-Star level production isn’t really something with which we should be concerned. This is a move that even Brian Cashman’s staunchest of critics (another club of which I’m a member) has to admit is a smart play.
It must be noted that the Yankees are also acquiring left-handed reliever Joely Rodríguez in the deal. Rodríguez is most likely to replace the role recently vacated by Justin Wilson — which is to say without judgment, he is unlikely to be seen in a crucial point of a game for the time being.
We also must note before we finish, that it takes two to tango. Being a reader of Pinstripe Alley, you’re probably not too interested in how this trade affects the on-field performance of the Rangers, but there is something we should address: The Rangers very recently received in the neighborhood of half a billion dollars from taxpayers to build Globe Life Field, and to turn the Rangers previous home into the nicest high school football stadium taxpayers can buy. (To be clear, the only thing wrong with the previous stadium was that it was not air-conditioned.) The city of Arlington owns the new stadium, which based on past history, suggests that it’s extremely unlikely that the Rangers pay rent or property taxes.
As I’ve discussed before here on PSA, despite MLB owners’ claims, either explicit or implicit, that new stadiums will allow them to put a better product on the field, they do no such thing. Since opening Globe Life Field, the Rangers are 58-104, and clearly have no intention of improving anytime soon. The Rangers are just another example of how the financial situation in MLB is such that there is minimal financial incentive to win, as teams will turn a massive profit regardless of their on-field record. You may not be a Rangers fan, but that’s something we should all be concerned about.
But today we’re Yankee fans, which means let the Jerry Callo jokes begin!