Coming off a frustrating half-season in the Bronx last season, Joey Gallo was an oft-speculated trade candidate throughout the offseason. The Yankees indeed explored trade scenarios involving the 28-year-old slugger after the lockout, per Jon Heyman of the New York Post, who reports this morning that the Yanks spoke to the Padres about a possible swap during Spring Training.
It’s not the first time that the Padres have inquired on Gallo. San Diego looked into Gallo at last year’s trade deadline, and Padres president of baseball operations A.J. Preller has made a habit of acquiring players he knows well from his days as an assistant GM in Texas. That no deal came together is surely reflective of multiple complicating factors.
First and foremost, the Padres appeared to be generally hamstrung for much of the offseason, as they signaled limited payroll capacity while seeking to shed salary (e.g. Eric Hosmer, Wil Myers) in trades. Even in their trade sending Chris Paddack, Emilio Pagan and a PTBNL to the Twins in exchange for Taylor Rogers, the Padres had Minnesota take on $6.6MM of Rogers’ $7.3MM salary — effectively reducing him to a league-minimum player.
Secondly, Heyman suggests that the Yankees weren’t looking to sell low on Gallo. Rather, they were seeking a return that did not discount for his recent struggles and was more commensurate with his overall ability. Gallo hit .223/.379/.490 with 25 homers in 388 plate appearances with the Rangers prior to last July’s trade but fell into a .160/.303/.404 swoon in 228 trips to the plate as a Yankee. His gaudy 19.1% walk rate dipped to a still-excellent 16.2% in New York, but Gallo’s already problematic 32.2% strikeout rate as a Ranger soared to 38.6% with his new club.
Gallo, of course, is an excellent defensive outfielder with surprising speed, an elite walk rate and perhaps as much raw power as any hitter in the game today. Those perks have been well known for some time, and they’ve tantalized scouts even as the slugger’s contact woes have led to him regularly punching out in more than a third of his plate appearances. Gallo embodies the three-true-outcome approach as much as any hitter in baseball, making him one of the game’s most polarizing talents.
We can’t know how Gallo might have fared upon moving from New York to San Diego, but the start of the 2022 season hasn’t been been a good one for the impending free agent. Gallo had a decent Spring Training, but he’s currently hitting .121/.256/.121 through his first 39 plate appearances. He’s made some hard contact — half the balls he’s put into play have been hit at 95 mph or more — but Gallo is also putting the ball on the ground more than usual and has generally mirrored the worsened K-BB profile he showed following last summer’s trade.
Obviously, we’re just 12 games into a 162-game marathon, so there’s ample time for Gallo to right the ship. When he gets hot, he’s the type of bat who can absolutely carry an offense — evidenced by the outrageous .308/.479/.813 slash he posted from early June through the All-Star break last season. A stretch like that will earn him plenty of leeway, but Gallo has yet to truly ignite in that fashion since being traded. And, given that the Yankees currently rank 25th in runs scored, there’s some extra attention on Gallo and others who are struggling (e.g. Josh Donaldson, Gleyber Torres, Giancarlo Stanton, Kyle Higashioka).
Ultimately, past efforts to trade Gallo could be taken as little more than anecdotal. However, it’s of some note that Preller’s Padres still harbored interest as recently as a few weeks ago and, of course, that the Yankees were indeed open to moving Gallo in the run-up to the season. April or May trades involving a player of Gallo’s stature are quite rare, so it’s not especially likely that we’ll see a move involving him in the near future. That said, he could very well be a name to keep in mind again this summer as teams begin to explore the trade market more earnestly.
Gallo is playing the 2022 season on a $10.275MM salary and is slated to become a free agent at season’s end.