The Yankees are acquiring Joey Gallo from the Rangers, reports Levi Weaver of the Athletic (Twitter link). Jack Curry of YES Network reported earlier this evening that the Yankees were making a push for an impact left-handed bat in the Gallo mold. Reliever John King is also likely headed to the Bronx, reports Lindsey Adler of the Athletic (Twitter link).
The Rangers are acquiring a group of prospects in return. Trevor Hauver, Glenn Otto, Ezequiel Duran, Everson Pereira and Randy Vasquez all seem likely to wind up as part of the return, report Adler, Weaver and Ken Rosenthal of the Athletic (Twitter link). Jeff Passan of ESPN (Twitter link) reports that Josh Smith is also part of the return. The deal is still pending review of medicals.
It’s a bold strike for the Yankees, who have hovered a bit above .500 for much of the season. New York enters play tonight 8.5 games back of the Red Sox in the American League East and three behind the Athletics for the final Wild Card spot (with the Mariners also ahead of them in the standings). That the Yankees aren’t leading the division — as many anticipated they would coming into the year — is largely a reflection of a lineup that has been more decent than great over the course of the season. The front office is looking to remedy that by adding another of the game’s most prodigious power bats to an order that already includes Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton.
Gallo deservedly earned his second career All-Star nod this summer amidst a tear between June and July. Overall, he’s hitting .223/.379/.490 with 25 home runs across 388 plate appearances. As he has throughout his career, Gallo has been prone to strikeouts and hit for a low batting average, but his power and plate discipline more than offset the swing-and-miss concerns.
The 27-year-old has always been a patient hitter, but he’s taken that aspect of his game to new heights in 2021. Gallo’s 19.1% walk rate is a career best, and it’s the highest such mark of any player with 250+ plate appearances this year. That abundance of free passes has allowed Gallo to reach base far more often than the .320 league average. The 27-year-old’s ISO (slugging minus batting average) is a whopping .268, and only five players top his home run total. Altogether, Gallo owns a 140 wRC+, indicating he’s been forty percentage points better than average at the plate this season.
Gallo’s low-contact, high-power approach resembles those of a lot of hitters in the Yankees lineup. That could lead to some concerns among fans about a lack of stylistic diversity. That said, Gallo’s lefty bat helps to balance a lineup that otherwise skews heavily right-handed. And Gallo’s production this season has neared or bettered that of anyone already on the New York roster. Only Judge (147) has a higher wRC+ than Gallo among Yankees with at least 100 plate appearances.
Unlike many sluggers, Gallo also offers quite a bit of value on the other side of the ball. Advanced defensive metrics have long pegged him as a plus right fielder, and he won a Gold Glove award last season. He’s best suited in the corner outfield, but Gallo also held his own during a run of center field play in 2019, and has plenty of experience at first base as well.
Throughout last offseason and this summer, the Yankees have worked to keep their payroll south of the $210M luxury tax line. Gallo’s playing this season on a $6.2M salary, about $2.2M of which remains to be paid. Because Gallo’s on a one-year arbitration contract, his luxury tax number is identical. If the Yankees assume the remainder of the salary, their luxury tax number bumps to approximately $208.8M, in the estimation of Roster Resource.
That leaves them with almost no room for further additions, but it’s certainly possible the Yankees explore creative ways to clear funds off the books. New York offloaded the salaries of relievers Luis Cessa and Justin Wilson to the Reds last night, and they could look to make other similar moves before Friday afternoon’s trade deadline.
Gallo is controllable via arbitration for one additional campaign. He’ll pick up a nice raise this winter given how well he’s played this season, but his 2022 salary will still be a bargain relative to the caliber of player he is. It’s not clear whether the luxury tax will be such a concern for Yankees brass next winter, if they can limbo under the threshold this season and reset their tax payor status. (The current CBA contains escalating penalties for teams exceeding the threshold in multiple consecutive seasons).
Last night’s Cessa/Wilson trade could’ve also been a precursor to this evening’s King pickup. New York thinned out their bullpen depth but they’ll replenish that a bit by adding the 26-year-old southpaw. King made his big league debut last season and has been a fixture of the Texas relief corps all year. He’s tossed 46 innings of 3.52 ERA/3.39 SIERA ball.
King doesn’t have the bat-missing stuff of many of the game’s top relievers. He has struck out a below-average 20.7% of batters faced on the back of an average 12.0% swinging strike rate. But King throws plenty of strikes (6.2% walk rate) and gets hitters to chase pitches outside the zone quite frequently.
Perhaps most importantly, the sinkerballer limits damaging contact. He’s racked up grounders at a massive 57% clip (a common theme for Yankees relievers) and is in the 95th percentile in suppressing opponents’ barrel rate, per Statcast. King is controllable through 2026 and won’t be arbitration eligible until 2024. He also still has three minor league option years remaining, so the Yankees could move him between the Bronx and Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre for a few seasons if he sticks on the 40-man roster.
Assuming the deal eventually gets across the finish line, it’ll mark the end of Gallo’s nine-year tenure in the Rangers organization. Texas selected Gallo 39th overall in the 2012 amateur draft, and he’s been a fixture on the major league roster since 2015. It’ll no doubt sting Rangers fans to see Gallo depart, although it’s hardly a surprise he wound up on the move this summer.
With Texas’ window of team control dwindling, the team’s last-place standing in the AL West, and recent reports that extension talks weren’t progressing, Gallo’s name was bandied about in plenty of trade rumors. He was also linked to the Padres, Blue Jays and Braves in recent days, but the Yankees ultimately put forth the offer that the Texas front office deemed the strongest.
Indeed, it seems the general opinion from public prospect evaluators is that the Rangers did well in this deal. Texas didn’t get a marquee headliner, per se, but they added a group of talented young players to an already-deep farm system.
All four prospects Texas is expected to acquire appeared on Baseball America’s midseason top 30 prospects in the Yankees system, with Duran (6th) and Smith (8th) checking in among New York’s ten most promising farmhands. Eric Longenhagen and Kevin Goldstein of FanGraphs have already slotted the group among Rangers farmhands. The aforementioned group all check in among Texas’ top 40 prospects, with Duran and Smith also at the top at that outlet.
FanGraphs pegs Duran as a 50 FV, the equivalent of a top 100 overall prospect. Ranking him third in the system, Longenhagen writes that the right-handed hitting second has plus raw power and some chance to stick at the position. He’s mashing this season at High-A, hitting .290/.374/.533 with twelve homers as a 22-year-old.
Smith, meanwhile, was a second-round draft choice out of LSU in 2019. He’s also performed at an incredible level in the low minors and had an even better .320/.435/.583 in High-A this year. He’s not especially toolsy, and he’ll turn 24 years old next month, but Longenhagen writes that Smith has a chance to be a plus hitter and should at least develop into a high-end utility option.
They’re similar stories for Hauver and Otto. Both are having stellar statistical seasons in the low minors and project to be at least solid role players. It’s a well-regarded group of young players, and it’s likely at least one or two will wind up important contributors when the Rangers are better positioned for contention a few years from now.
The Yankees initially seemed likely to finalize their acquisition of Gallo Wednesday evening, hears Mark Feinsand of MLB.com (Twitter link), but it still seems there’s some uncertainty about the ultimate trade package. Curry hears that Joely Rodríguez — not King — could be the reliever accompanying Gallo to the Bronx and suggests that only four prospects — Duran, Smith, Hauver and Otto — would be headed back to Texas.
The deal isn’t expected to be finalized until tomorrow, reports Passan. As Curry first reported, the expectation is now that the Yankees will acquire Gallo and Rodríguez for a four-player prospect package (Duran, Smith, Hauver and Otto). King is now expected to remain in Texas.
Rodríguez has tossed 27 1/3 innings of 5.93 ERA ball this season, a disappointing follow-up to a brief but productive 2020 campaign. His peripherals, though, are far better. The southpaw has a 3.40 SIERA, with average strikeout and walk numbers but a huge 63.9% grounder rate. Rodríguez is making $2.5M this season (about $900K of which is still owed), and has a $3M club option for the 2022 campaign. If the Yankees are on the hook for the remainder of Rodríguez’s salary, that’d push them a touch closer to the luxury tax threshold.