The New York Yankees haven't lived up to expectations in 2021, but that didn't stop them from pulling off the season's biggest trade to date Wednesday.
Mere hours after Jack Curry of the YES Network tweeted that the Yankees were "pushing hard" for Texas Rangers All-Star slugger Joey Gallo, news broke that said push had succeeded:
<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/JoeyJacks?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#JoeyJacks</a> to the short porch. 👀<br><br>Yankees reportedly finalizing deal for All-Star Joey Gallo from Rangers, per Jon Morosi. <a href="https://t.co/TL030pEjSg">https://t.co/TL030pEjSg</a> <a href="https://t.co/P9Q6NvrakV">pic.twitter.com/P9Q6NvrakV</a>
The trade is unconfirmed for now and the exact structure of it isn't 100 percent clear. But according to Curry, it sounds as if it will be:
- Yankees get: RF Joey Gallo and LHP Joely Rodriguez
- Rangers get: SS Josh Smith, 2B Ezequiel Duran, 2B/OF Trevor Hauver and RHP Glenn Otto
For the Yankees—who are 8.5 games out of first place in the American League East at 53-47—Gallo is obviously the centerpiece. This season has seen him post an .869 OPS and 25 home runs, plus six outs above average in right field. He's also making a modest $6.2 million, with another year of club control in 2022.
For his part, Rodriguez is a nice throw-in. His 31 appearances in 2021 have only yielded a 5.93 ERA, yet he's held left-handed batters to a .488 OPS.
Of the prospects going to Arlington, none of them cracked the club's top 10 in B/R's most recent rankings. According to MLB.com, though, Smith, Duran, Hauver and Otto ranked as the team's No. 14, 15, 23 and 28 prospects, respectively.
So even if they avoided giving up quality talents like outfielder Jasson Dominguez and shortstop Oswald Peraza, the Yankees surrendered quite a bit of quantity to get this deal done. Considering that they only had a middling farm system beforehand, that's not an insignificant sacrifice.
Which obviously leaves just one question: Is Gallo worth it?
Gallo Is an Absolutely Perfect Fit for the Yankees
If there's a way to pessimistically spin the Yankees acquiring a guy whose creds include two 40-homer seasons, two All-Star nods and a Gold Glove, it's that he's yet another all-or-nothing hitter for one of the most all-or-nothing lineups in Major League Baseball.
As personified by powerful yet whiff-prone sluggers Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton, the Yankees offense ranks second in the American League at generating the three true outcomes: walks, strikeouts and home runs. Gallo, meanwhile, is far and away the league leader with a TTO% of 57.7. The next-closest guy is Shohei Ohtani at 50.9 percent.
Yet it's worth remembering that of the three true outcomes, two of them are good outcomes for offenses. Walks are fine. Home runs are even finer.
As evidenced by his MLB-high 74 walks, Gallo can handle the former. As for the latter, well, roll the tape:
More to one point, the Yankees badly needed a boost for an outfield that's produced minus-2.0 rWAR this season. More to another point, they needed a left-handed slugger to help improve the AL-low .338 slugging percentage they've gotten from the left side of the plate.
Gallo, of course, is both of these things.
By way of his 4.1 rWAR, he's arguably the best outfielder in baseball right now. So even if there's a question of whether he should supplant Judge in right field or play out of position in center or left, it's hard to any scenario in which the Yankees outfield is worse off with him.
Offensively, it's perhaps too easy to assume that Gallo's power will be even further amplified by Yankee Stadium's short right field porch. But, well, it should.
Allow Manny Randhawa of MLB.com to illustrate:
Yankee Stadium certainly couldn't be any more different from Globe Life Field, whose cavernous dimensions cost Gallo a few home runs (i.e., this one and this one) in the 72 games he played there since it opened in 2020.
Because he wasn't yet a regular when the Rangers went to the playoffs in 2015 and 2016, what Gallo lacks is postseason experience. But unless he can actually help the Yankees get there, worrying about that now is sort of putting the cart before the horse.
But Is Gallo the Yankees' Savior?
With back-to-back wins against the Tampa Bay Rays on Tuesday and Wednesday, the Yankees have managed to keep their hopes of winning the AL East somewhat alive.
Even still, they aren't exactly alive and well. According to FanGraphs, the Yankees entered 2021 with a 71 percent chance of winning the division. As they've battled all sorts of ups, downs, injuries and sudden rule changes, that chance is now south of 5 percent.
Gallo will help those odds, but he alone isn't going to put the AL East title back within reach. It would take trades for several Mike Trouts and maybe a prime-era Pedro Martinez to do that.
To this extent, the Gallo trade is a pretty big risk on the part of Yankees general manager Brian Cashman. It's a win-now move for a team that's only kinda-sorta winning now. And if it fails, the thought that Gallo will still be around in 2022 may only be so comforting.
With only one player ticketed for free agency this winter, the Yankees are lined up for an offseason in which they'll have to either stick with what's currently a deeply flawed roster or blow it up. At this point, it's not hard to imagine that neither Cashman or manager Aaron Boone won't still be around when that decision is made.
But if Cashman is merely hoping to salvage a wild-card berth and then hope for lightning in a bottle in October, he might be onto something.
Even though they're looking up at the Rays, Oakland Athletics and Seattle Mariners in the AL wild card race, the Yankees actually have about a 40 percent chance of getting into the playoffs through that door. And that's before Gallo's influence is factored in, much less anything else that might benefit the Yankees.
For instance, they still have time to make deals before the trade deadline passes at 4 p.m. ET Friday. Colorado Rockies shortstop Trevor Story, who the Yankees have reportedly made an offer on, is still in play. So are pitching upgrades, including Washington Nationals ace Max Scherzer if the Yankees can somehow convince him to waive his no-trade rights.
What's more, the Yankees will also get some reinforcements off the injured list in the weeks to come. In the short-term, 2020 home run leader Luke Voit will be back at first base in a matter of days. Hurlers Corey Kluber and Luis Severino won't be back that soon, but both of them could be back in the club's rotation alongside ace Gerrit Cole by September.
To be sure, this doesn't amount to a straight path to what would be the Yankees' first World Series since 2009. But it's at least a path, and it's certainly less long and winding than it was before the Gallo trade materialized.
In other words, it's a start.