The Rangers are one of the league’s most obvious sellers this offseason. President of baseball operations Jon Daniels has been open about the organization’s intent to cut payroll and rework the roster in hopes of contending in 2022. They’ve put that into action already, trading Lance Lynn and Rafael Montero for longer-term assets.
Lynn was an obvious trade candidate, as he’s scheduled to hit free agency at the end of next season. Montero is controllable for an additional year, but as a 30-year-old reliever on a team not expecting to immediately contend, he was a sensible player to move. A tougher question for Texas is how to proceed with Joey Gallo.
The 27-year-old Gallo is under control for the next two seasons. He’s projected for a salary in the $5-7MM range this winter and will be eligible for arbitration once more after that. If the Rangers truly believe they can field a contender in 2022, they could elect to proceed year-by-year through arbitration.
There’s a case to be made, though, Texas should approach the Gallo situation more proactively. That could mean him following Lynn and Montero out the door. Texas has made Gallo available to other teams, although it may not be the best time to try to work out a deal. After all, he struggled to a .181/.301/.378 line in 226 plate appearances this past season. An unsustainably low .240 BABIP no doubt played a role in that, but his struggles can’t all be chalked up to bad luck.
Gallo’s already high average launch angle increased by more than four degrees between 2019 and 2020. For many players, that’d be a positive development. Gallo, though, already had an extremely uphill swing path. Hitting the ball higher in the air last season didn’t do him any favors. Gallo’s batting average on airborne contact (fly balls and line drives) dropped from .556 in 2019 to .350 last season. His slugging output had an even more precipitous fall. Making matters worse, Gallo’s average exit velocity fell more than three miles per hour from where it had been in 2018-19.
2020 struggles notwithstanding, the Rangers presumably anticipate Gallo to rebound. In August, Texas manager Chris Woodward called the slugger “by far the best player on the field” in every game he plays. There was a degree of hyperbole in that statement, to be sure, but Woodward’s affinity for Gallo has plenty of merit. Between 2017-19, Gallo hit .217/.336/.533 (120 wRC+) with 103 home runs over 1406 plate appearances. That’s solidly above-average offensive production. And Gallo has consistently rated as a quality outfielder (especially in the corners) and baserunner. Even with one of the league’s highest strikeout rates, Gallo has shown flashes of stardom.
Daniels and newly-minted GM Chris Young have a tough decision with their franchise player coming off a career-worst year. It’s not an ideal time to look for a trade, although there’ll surely be teams that see his off year as an anomaly. Gallo’s young enough that Texas could decide to explore an extension, even with the team taking a step back in 2021. Finding a price point agreeable to both the club and the Boras Corporation client on the heels of a down season might be difficult, though.
So, what course of action should the Texas front office pursue this winter with the 2019 All-Star?
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