After one and a half poor seasons with the Yankees (.159/.291/.368 in 421 at-bats) and the Dodgers (.162/.277/.393 in 117 at-bats), former All-Star Joey Gallo enters free agency looking to reset his career and rediscover his bat. It was only a few years ago that Gallo was one of the most feared hitters in the entire league, mashing .253/.389/.589 with 22 homers in 2019 and hitting a strong .223/.379/.490 with 25 homers in 2021 before being traded to the Yankees. However, instead of earning a lucrative long-term contract this offseason, Gallo will likely be forced to sign a one- or two-year deal as he looks to re-establish himself as a premier outfielder.
Following a weak 2022 season (.160/.280/.357 in 350 at-bats), Gallo will probably be passed over by the more-competitive clubs. However, there are several less-competitive teams that may take a flier on the former All-Star in the hopes that he rekindles his offensive production.
With no guaranteed contracts and amidst a rebuild, the Athletics may view Gallo as a potential mid-season trade chip that will net them some prospects. As mentioned in MLBTR’s Athletics’ Offseason Outlook, at the surface, Oakland only has catcher Sean Murphy and centerfielder Roman Laureano penciled in as starters, with the former being the subject of constant trade rumors this offseason. Cristian Pache also figures to see some time in the outfield, as he is out of minor league options in 2023, and Seth Brown can play first base or a corner outfield position.
But, as best put by MLBTR’s Steve Adams, “Oakland is going to need someone to fill out the lineup.” Laureano (.211/.287/.376) and Pache (.166/.218/.241) were regulars in 2022, but neither provided above-average production. Gallo represents a free agent signing that, if he regains his form in a less stressful environment, may net the As a solid return in a likely non-competitive season.
The Reds are another rebuilding team that may take a flier on the former All-Star. Cincinnati had a revolving-door outfield in 2022, with seven different outfielders coming to the plate at least 200 times. Two of those players, Tommy Pham and Tyler Naquin, were traded away and another two, Aristides Aquino and Albert Almora, have already been designated for assignment (DFA).
That leaves three outfielders who had at least 200 at-bats during the 2022 season on the Reds’ 40-Man roster at this point in the offseason. Nick Senzel (.231/.296/.306) had a below-average season and was a potential DFA candidate ahead of the 40-Man roster deadline. Senzel has had a challenging time remaining on the field, being limited to only 110 games in 2022 and 35 games in 2022. The other two outfielders, TJ Friedl (.240/.314/.436) and Jake Fraley (.259/.344/.468) have limited MLB experience, with Friedl having under one year of service time and Fraley having just over two years.
Perhaps with these circumstances in mind, the Reds recently acquired Nick Solak from the Rangers. Solak, who can play left field and second base, had a strong 2019 season, .293/.393/.491 in 33 games (135 at-bats), but has struggled since then. Most recently during the 2022 season, the soon-to-be 28-year-old hit a measly .207/.309/.329 and was optioned on and off the major league club, only getting into 35 games with the Rangers.
With a lack of health and experience, Cincinnati may look to Gallo as a veteran option. However, both Friedl and Fraley are left-handed hitters and with Gallo also a lefty bat, the Reds may be cautious in trotting out a trio of lefty outfielders.
Turning to the NL East, the Marlins are another team that suffered from a poor outfield during the 2022 season, slashing a collective .216/.284/.365. Miami has already been rumored to be active in the trade market for centerfield help this offseason but may also test the free-agent market. Nevertheless, with Jorge Soler ($24MM through 2023) and Avisail Garcia ($41MM through 2025) manning the corner outfield positions, general manager Kim Ng will likely opt to forgo adding another boom-or-bust outfielder in Gallo.
Staying in the NL East, after finishing the 2022 season at the bottom of the division, trading their All-World talent in Juan Soto, and undergoing a sale, the Nationals are firmly in a rebuild. However, unlike Oakland, Washington is in a state of limbo without direction from ownership. Trades involving Max Scherzer, Trea Turner, Juan Soto, and Josh Bell have netted the organization a plethora of young talent in Robert Hassell, Keibert Ruiz, CJ Abrams, and James Wood, among others, but the organization has stated an intention to upgrade the corner outfield spots.
Victor Robles was Washington’s primary centerfielder in 2022 but slashed a weak .224/.273/.311. Corner outfielder Lane Thomas (.241/.301/.404) had a solid second season with the Nats and will likely continue to have an everyday role with the team. That leaves one open corner outfield spot that can potentially be filled by Gallo. By signing Gallo to a short-term deal, Washington can bridge the gap until top prospects Hassell and Wood reach the majors. Additionally, from a midseason potential trade chip standpoint, the Nats can flip Gallo if the veteran regains his offensive spark, with Hassell (who earned a promotion to Double-A Harrisburg near the end of the 2022 season) projected to join the major league team sometime during the 2023 season.
Lastly, the team that had the worst wRC+ (83) and Gallo’s starting point, the Texas Rangers. Despite signing Corey Seager ($287.5MM through 2031) Marcus Semien ($150MM through 2028), and Jon Gray ($41MM through 2025) to long-term contracts in the 2021-2022 offseason, the Rangers failed to make the playoffs for the sixth straight season, finishing with a 68-94 record. Part of the blame can be attributed to a weak outfield that collectively slashed .226/.287/.353 in 2022.
As discussed in MLBTR’s Rangers’ Offseason Outlook, aside from Adolis Garcia (.250/.300/.456), the Rangers’ outfield utilized Leody Taveras (.261/.309/.366) and Bubba Thompson (.265/.302/.312), along with contributions from Eli White, Josh Smith, and Nick Solak, who has since been traded. Despite Gallo’s weak showing as of late, over parts of seven seasons with the Rangers he has a .211/.336/.497 line with 145 homers. Nevertheless, as touched upon in the Rangers’ Offseason Outlook, general manager Chris Young has already publicly stated that owner Ray Davis has given the green light to increase payroll, albeit with a focus on improving the pitching staff. For a team with considerable financial resources and a hunger to return to postseason competition, the Rangers will likely heavily pursue more prominent free agents, leaving Gallo as an afterthought.
Pivoting to a more general discussion, Gallo will almost surely find himself a spot on a major league roster for the 2023 season. The slugger, who pulls the ball 54.8% of the time, will likely benefit from the removal of the shift, leading to more interest from teams across the league. Nevertheless, Gallo’s recent history of offensive ruin may sour potential suitors and leave him in search of a “prove-it” deal as he looks to rescue his career.