For a brief time in June, it seemed like Yankees outfielder Joey Gallo was about to break out of his season-long funk. That doesn’t appear to be the case anymore, and one has to wonder how long the Yanks will keep sticking with him until he figures things out before pursuing an alternative solution.
The trade deadline is in a few weeks and the Yankees are on the market. However, there are a few players who could provide an immediate fix and replace the struggling slugger, who has slashed .031/.184/.031 since June 18th, with a -23 wRC+. (Yes, you read that right: a negative wRC+.)
Do the Yankees have legitimate internal candidates to take Gallo’s playing time? Well, it depends on what you are looking for. If you want a slam-dunk star, then no, they don’t have one, but there are three Triple-A outfielders on their roster who are at least potentially capable of matching or exceeding Gallo’s current offensive output.
One of the candidates should be Estevan Florial. He is far from perfect, as his strikeout rate has always been high and he has been aided by an abnormally elevated BABIP this year of .424. At this point, though I think it’s fair to wonder if he can do better than Gallo and some of the outfielders on the Yankees’ roster.
There has been some growth this year. Since April 27th, Florial is slashing .339/.414/.561 with a .975 OPS, a 158 wRC+, 8 homers, 25 extra-base hits, and 23 stolen bases in 189 Triple-A plate appearances. That’s not a huge sample, but it’s also not insignificant — certainly more than the 12 trips to the plate he has gotten in MLB so far in 2022.
Overall, Florial is slashing .308/.384/.521 with 10 home runs, 26 stolen bases, and a 139 wRC+ in 271 plate appearances. He has never been this good for this long at such an advanced minor league level.
What's better than a lead-off home run? A Flo lead-off homer. pic.twitter.com/E4d2hsFU52— SWB RailRiders (@swbrailriders) July 2, 2022
Miguel Andújar is another candidate. The once-promising infielder is currently a disgruntled outfielder who wants to be traded to another organization in order to get more playing time. And it’s hard to blame him: the highest number of plate appearances he has gotten since 2018 is 162, which came last year.
However, it’s also hard to blame the Yankees for not giving him Andújar more at-bats when he has a 58 wRC+ in 328 plate appearances since 2019. That sample includes two months of consistent playing time in 2021 that didn’t amount to much (81 wRC+). That performance won’t get him many opportunities in MLB, let alone the Yankees.
This year, Andújar is slashing .245/.269/.286 with a 57 wRC+ in 52 MLB plate appearances, but his Triple-A performance has been much better: .316/.362/.485 with 7 homers in 185 trips to the plate (good for a 125 wRC+). Perhaps an extended opportunity will help him get into a rhythm at the highest level.
Tie ballgame in Cleveland!— YES Network (@YESNetwork) July 2, 2022
Miguel Andújar puts one into the outfield to score Aaron Judge and we're all tied up 2-2.
: Watch now on Prime Videopic.twitter.com/HglBh2xuZA
It’s important to point out that his defense in the outfield seems much-improved. He was an embarrassment back there in years past. In a very limited sample so far in 2022, he has three DRS and one OAA.
Tim Locastro can theoretically steal some of Gallo’s playing time, too, if the Yankees so decide. He overcame a left lat strain in early June and has been playing in Triple-A since then. Unlike Andújar, Locastro is capable of filling in center field, although he is best suited in one of the corners.
Although Locastro has a .795 OPS (in just 15 plate appearances) this year in MLB and is currently sporting a 108 wRC+ in Triple-A, the right-hander is more of a slightly-below average hitter. However, even if he produces a 95 wRC+, he could be a viable part-time option with his speed, athleticism, and passable glove while the Yanks scan the trade market.
As for Gallo, it’s truly baffling how a guy who was a comfortably above-average hitter for all of his career despite his obvious contact limitations became such a liability at the plate. There’s a misconception that this was exactly what the Yankees signed up for, but that’s simply untrue. Gallo hit .208/.336/.497 with a 117 wRC+ between 2017-21, and this year, he’s batting a horrid .165/.277/.325 with a 77 wRC+. It’s even a steep drop-off from the 95 wRC+ he posted in the second half with the Yankees last year.
Things haven’t worked out, and at this point, it’s safe to say that a trade to cut bait would be the best scenario for everyone involved. Sometimes, it just happens. It’s baseball: It’s not Gallo’s fault, nor the Yankees’. It just wasn’t meant to be, apparently, and the team needs to move on and replace his production or significantly reduce his playing time. If they’re not satisfied with their internal options, then they can absolutely go for someone on the trade market, but in the meantime, they might as well try one of Florial, Andújar, or Locastro. Gallo is not the answer.