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Yankees Bet the Farm on Another Slugger

New York now boasts three of baseball's most feared power hitters in Joey Gallo, Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge. Is that enough to fix this offense?
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Less than 48 hours before the MLB trade deadline, the Bronx Bombers took a rather sizable step toward living up to their moniker.

The Yankees are reportedly close to finalizing a deal that would net them outfielder Joey Gallo from the Rangers in exchange for four prospects. The 6’5”, 250-pound Gallo has been one of the league’s most dangerous power bats since his first full season in 2017, with two All-Star appearances and two 40-home run seasons to his name.

The addition of Gallo to a Yankees offense that ranks 13th in the American League in runs scored is an obvious boon. Gallo strikes out often but has nearly unmatched power that more than compensates for his low batting average, posting a 128 wRC+ over the past three seasons. Even with such a large frame, he has good speed and is among the best defensive outfielders in baseball. Gallo won a Gold Glove in right field in 2020, but will likely shift over to left field in New York.

The move signals what many expected: The Yankees, who came into the 2021 season with their typical World Series expectations and seemed plenty talented to reach those heights, were not ready to keep the status quo and hope their numerous flaws fixed themselves. This type of aggressive player acquisition historically has come at the cost of nine-figure contracts in free agency for the franchise. Now, it comes in exchange for prospects, which the organization has placed an emphasis on stockpiling over the years to build what experts view as a deep (if not star-studded) farm system.

joey gallo

Gallo can help the Yankees salvage what’s been a disappointing campaign so far by doing what he’s always done: hit the ball as hard as anyone else in the league. Gallo has an 18.4% barrel rate that ranks as the fifth-highest in baseball this season. With him in the middle of the lineup, New York can now boast three of Statcast’s exit velocity darlings in Gallo, Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton.

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Yankees fans who have watched their team struggle to score runs are likely tired of hearing about exit velocities and launch angles, though. New York ranks dead last in the AL in hitting with runners in scoring position (82 wRC+), 24 points behind the first-place Red Sox. Gallo’s put up a 144 wRC+ in such situations this season, with his value being driven largely by a .404 on-base percentage that’s fueled by an absurd 24.5% walk rate.

While the entire Yankees lineup has underwhelmed so far, two positions in particular have been particularly lackluster: left and center field. Gallo’s presumed spot in left addresses half of that problem, and perhaps New York isn’t done adding. Brett Gardner has spent the most time in center after Aaron Hicks's season-ending wrist injury, and is batting .194/.311/.306 on the year. Gallo also will provide much-needed left-handed hitting for the right-handed dominant New York lineup, and should be able to take full advantage of the short porch in right field.

The return to the Rangers is one aimed at injecting the organization with some much-needed depth. Of the four players reportedly tabbed to head to Texas, 22-year-old second baseman Ezequiel Duran is the highest regarded of the bunch. In 67 games at High-A this season, Duran is batting .290/.374/.533, with 12 home runs and 12 stolen bases. Texas has had a miserable year, and there’s little sign that 2022 will be much better. Sending Gallo off now—when demand is high and several contenders are in need of offense—is likely the prudent move, even if it means losing Gallo more than a year before he was set to hit free agency.

Wednesday’s reported deal for Gallo and the uniquely fun Marlins-A’s trade were superb precursors for what could be a particularly wild deadline day. Max Scherzer, José Berríos and a whole host of Cubs could very well be traded by Thursday, drastically shifting this year’s playoff picture in the process.

The Yankees couldn’t afford to be patient and chose not to wait until then to take their big swing. Whether or not it’s their last remains to be seen, but the already tight AL East race has gotten that much more intriguing. Red Sox and Rays, it’s your move.

Quick hits:

  • A low-scoring football game broke out at Target Field on Wednesday, with the Tigers eking out a 17-14 win over the Twins. Detroit scored all their runs without hitting a home run, the first time they’ve scored at least 17 runs without homering in over 50 years. Minnesota, meanwhile, hit seven home runs and walked seven times, all in a losing effort.
  • Joey Votto did it again. He homered in Wednesday’s 8-2 win over the Cubs, bringing his streak to five straight games with a home run. That’s the longest such streak of his career and ties him for the franchise record, which is held by eight other Reds.
  • There’s walk-off wins, and then there’s walk-off wins. The Orioles pulled off the latter with a ninth-inning rally which saw only two swings. Marlins reliever Steven Okert walked leadoff man Cedric Mullins, threw a wild pitch, got an out via a sacrifice bunt, then intentionally walked the next two hitters. He then walked Ryan McKenna with the bases loaded to end the game.
  • Yet again, Shohei Ohtani destroyed a baseball:

Ohtani extended his major-league lead with his 37th home run of the season, this one with a 113.1 mph exit velocity. He’ll sport a 3.04 ERA in his next start, which is scheduled for Sunday against Oakland.

More MLB Coverage:
Inside Alex Cora’s Second Chance After Scandal

Rays Find New Sense of Urgency to Heat Up AL East Race

Starling Marte Trade Is Win-Win Deal for Both A's and Marlins
How Scherzer Fits With Three NL West Contenders