With all due respect to Anthony Rizzo, the Yankees’ acquisition of Joey Gallo from the Texas Rangers was their biggest move at the trade deadline. He’s not a pending free agent, so his influence will be felt beyond this year’s playoff push.
However, notwithstanding some big and tall home runs, Gallo has not been hitting very well with New York so far. His skill has never been hitting for average, but even after a big homer last night, his .149/.315/.379 Yankees batting line is below league average (94 wRC+). He’s also striking out 42.6 percent of the time over the same period and has hit only six long balls despite his left-handed swing being tailor-made for getting over Yankee Stadium’s short porch (as has been often noted).
Gallo isn’t the first or the last player to need time to adjust after being uprooted into a new team halfway through the season. But even if his bat doesn’t heat up through the end of the year, he’s still providing value to the team through his outfield defense.
According to Baseball Savant, Gallo ranks ninth among qualified outfielders in Outs Above Average; in comparison, Aaron Judge is 80th, and Brett Gardner is 82nd, and neither are exactly defensive slouches out there. Obviously, the 2020 AL Gold Glove winner would be an improvement over the majority of outfielders, but he’s been an especially pleasant breath of fresh air compared to the various stopgaps Aaron Boone had to send out to man left field before the trade deadline.
With all due respect to his past Gold Glove nominee status, Opening Day starter Clint Frazier was clearly never fully comfortable. He had a -8 OAA this season and an 80-percent success rate on his plays — fun that it nearly matches his jersey number, but awful in practice. Miguel Andújar also played the outfield like the converted infielder he is, with a -2 OAA.
Giancarlo Stanton, Tyler Wade, Greg Allen, Jonathan Davis, Ryan LaMarre, and poor Tim Locastro have also appeared in left for the Yankees this season. Stanton is playing the outfield more frequently (though is still primarily a DH), and Wade is a useful utility player. However, the sheer number of players that the team has tried points to the value that having Gallo playing consistently strong defense can provide.
A Gallo-Gardner-Judge outfield for any big games the Yankees deploy — and right now they’re all pretty big, considering the standings — is defensively devastating for the opposing team, even with Gardner’s poor throwing arm. Gallo’s range certainly make the occasional Gallo-Judge-Stanton alignment better than it would be with almost any other left fielder, too.
Gallo’s glove made a big impression during his first homestand in the Bronx, and his expertise was on display again during Monday night’s game against the first-place Braves. This catch likely kept a run off the board:
Let’s not forget his throwing arm, either. Gallo is third among American League outfielders with 10 assists. “Don’t run on Judge” is a common refrain among Yankees fans, but the Yankees’ other big corner outfielder has “only” eight to his name. Runners will have to seriously reconsider trying to advance or score when either of those two is fielding the ball.
Before the trade deadline, Gallo told The Athletic’s Levi Weaver that he considers himself a “defensive-first player.” Since he’s come over to New York, that’s looked true.
To be sure, Brian Cashman didn’t give up four prospects for a defensive replacement, but his play outside of the batter’s box is giving a boost to his value while he works his hitting out. At any rate, his skill with the glove makes him a much more effective and watchable player than the others the team has tried to date in 2021.