The big splash is here. According to every baseball writer you follow and have ever heard of, the Yankees have an agreement in place with the Rangers to acquire left-handed outfielder Joey Gallo.
While there are many rumors swirling about the package, the fact is we have no idea what the Yankees gave up yet, so let’s start with the facts. (Update: we now know, so this has been updated accordingly.) Here is the trade, at least the key pieces, according to Jeff Passan, Joel Sherman, and Lindsey Adler:
- Yankees Get: Joey Gallo, LHP John King
- Rangers Get: RHP Glenn Otto, 2B Ezequiel Duran, SS Josh Smith, RHP Randy Vasquez, OF Everson Pereira, and 2B Trevor Hauver
(Update again: We in fact do not know the final package, as Jack Curry reported late last night that it didn’t include Vasquez and Duran, nor did it include John King but Joely Rodriguez. At this point, given the lack of official confirmation, we’re leaving this analysis up and will edit as needed later today.)
Okay, there is a lot to unpack here. A lot a lot a lot. Most of it good, though. The Yankees got potentially the biggest impact bat on the market for a lot of mid-level prospects who broke out in 2021. That is a pure upgrade for the team. It’s hard not to love that. It is also a Brian Cashman special, as the team unloaded a ton of depth (more on that later) without sacrificing any MLB talent or top-tier prospects. It’s why I can’t accept any proposals about moving beyond Cashman as serious. He is probably the best trader in the business.
Anyway, I think it makes sense to break this down piece-by-piece, starting with the two players the Yankees got in the trade, moving to the pieces they surrendered, and then an overall look at the move. Let’s get to it, shall we?
Derek masterfully broke down Gallo the other day in a preview, so be sure to check that out. It’s got all the goods. I do think it’s worth breaking down a few specifics here, though, while I’ve got you.
First, Joey Gallo, who is under contract through the 2022 season, is a very, very good baseball player. It is objectively good that the Yankees traded for him. He is hitting .223/.379/.490 (140 wRC+) on the season, which is a god-send for the current team. Here are some additional statistics to demonstrate this, with his ranking among qualified batters in parentheses:
- fWAR: 3.4 (16th, would be highest on 2021 Yankees)
- Walk Rate: 19.1% (1st, obviously tops on the 2021 Yankees too)
- wRC+: 140 (22nd, second highest on 2021 Yankees behind Aaron Judge)
- On-Base Percentage: .379 (18th, highest on 2021 Yankees)
- Home Runs: 25 (6th, highest on 2021 Yankees)
That is should be enough to make any fan salivate. The Yankees are a middling offense this year (16th in fWAR and a shocking 24th in runs scored) who desperately need all the help they can get. There is no doubt that Gallo will help, and he will help immediately.
Second, Gallo is a left-handed hitter. I am not one to put much stock into this, as many of you know. Get the best hitters. Who cares from which side of the plate they take their hacks? Even still, it is a welcome sight to see a lefty power hitter in the lineup. That is, quite literally, the profile for which Yankee Stadium was designed. Look at Gallo’s career spray chart:
And heat map:
It is not going to be difficult to imagine him mashing in Yankee Stadium, is it? In fact, he’s probably going to gain some power. Look at the spray chart of his field outs, mapped over Yankee Stadium:
A pretty sight, that. Not to mention, Gallo is a productive hitter against both righties (136 wRC+) and lefties (145 wRC+) alike. That is nice, too.
Third, his defense is excellent. By Outs Above Average (95th percentile) and Outfielder Jump (91st percentile), it is clear Gallo is good in the outfield. This also tracks with other defensive metrics. Choose whichever you like; they all tell the same story. This is good news. A lumbering giant, he is not.
Fourth, Gallo is not going to be the player that many fans wanted. He is a huge, hulking power hitter (he’s listed at 6’5″, 250 pounds) and he absolutely loves to strike out. And I mean loves to strike out: his 32.2% strikeout rate is a career low. It is also much higher than Aaron Judge’s (24.9%), Giancarlo Stanton’s (29.2%), and Gary Sánchez’s (27.4%). That is going to rub some fans the wrong way. He is also quite streaky, and hits for a low batting average. So there’s that.
Still, hard not to love this addition, especially factoring in that he will still be around in 2022. This isn’t just an addition for 2021. Next year matters, too.
King is a 26-year-old lefty who made his MLB debut with the Rangers last year. Therefore, King has MiLB options left and will be around for quite some time. He’s been very good in 2021, with a 3.52 ERA (3.30 FIP) in 46 innings pitched He doesn’t walk many (6.2%) but also isn’t a huge strikeout pitcher (20.7%), either. That’s alright. He is an absolute terror against lefties, who have just a .138 wOBA against him, and that has value for the Yankees. King throws a sinker (58% of the time), with a change (19%), slider (14%), and cutter (10%), thrown in there too. He doesn’t throw hard, but he does elicit quite a few grounders (57%). The Yankees have a relief profile, that’s for sure.
He also has something of a unique release point for Yankee lefties, too. Here is the release point plot for left-handed Yankee relievers in 2021:
And here is King’s release point:
It’s still within the general range – this is not a Darren O’Day situation by any means – but it’s clear he’ll bring a different look. Different pitches from a slightly different angle. That’s a lot of orange, yellow, and green, further to the left than batters normally see from lefties. A subtle change, sure, but one I think worth noting. We all saw in the 2020 ALDS how valuable a skill that was for the Rays.
The downside here is that King is currently hurt. He landed on the IL in early July with a shoulder issue, though he recently began a throwing program. We could see him soon, but who knows, really. Still, this is a solid throw-in to the trade for sure. He figures to be a dependable arm, particularly against lefties, not just in 2021 but beyond.
What They Gave Up
A lot of mid-tier prospects. I am pleasantly surprised that the Yankees didn’t part ways with any of their top-tier prospects. Cashman famously hates overpays, sometimes to our chagrin, so perhaps this shouldn’t be a surprise.
Here is a breakdown of the players they gave up, with their Baseball America ranking cited where appropriate:
- RHP Glenn Otto: the righty topped out at #18 in Baseball America’s organizational rankings in 2018, but really broke out in 2021. The 25-year-old was very, very good with Somerset, pitching to a 3.17 ERA (2.32) FIP in 65.1 innings down there with a ridiculous 41% strikeout rate against a 5.5% walk rate. He struggled a bit more in Triple-A, but it was just 10 innings. Otto added a slider in 2021, which may be key to his success this season.
- 2B Ezequiel Duran: the 22-year-old 2B was ranked #11 in the organization by Baseball America before the season. He’s hitting .290/.374/.533 (141 wRC+) with High-A Hudson Valley in 2021, and he’s basically always hit as a minor leaguer with the exception of 2018. It’s reasonable to view him as one of the centerpieces of this trade, and could be an everyday 2B with a big stick if it all pans out for him.He has a ton of upside, even if he’s still a few years away.
- SS Josh Smith: another of the Yanks’ performing middle-infield prospects, the 23-year-old Smith really broke out in 2021. He dominated with Tampa for 11 games, and then continued to hit with the ‘Gades, putting up a .320/.435/.583 (174 wRC+) line with the High-A squad. He was ranked #24 in the system before the season, and reportedly has great contact skills.
- RHP Randy Vasquez: the 22-year-old Vasquez was not ranked by BA before the season. He pitched very well in 50 innings with Tampa (2.34 ERA, 3.58 FIP) before earning a promotion to Hudson Valley.
- OF Everson Pereira: the 20-year-old Pereira ranked #19 on BA’s list coming into the season, and boy has he hit. He took a real step forward offensively in limited action, hitting .400/.468/.673 (203 wRC+) in 62 PA with the Tarpons. It’s fair to view him as the other prospect centerpiece here, as he’s a high-upside play with an injury history. Could be a regular, but is still obviously several years away.
- 2B Trevor Hauver: last year’s 3rd-round pick, Hauver got off to a ridiculous start with Tampa before cooling off. He’s still hitting .288/.445/.498 (159 wRC+), but much of that is buoyed by what was a truly ludicrous first two weeks. Hauver is a college bat with upside – he has good discipline and bat skills – though he is position-less. He was a HS shortstop turned college OF turned professional 2B, so it’s tough to say where he’ll land. So long to the Hauver Heat Check, DoTf readers.
Okay, so with that all out of the way, let’s just say that this is a Brian Cashman special. It has the markings of Cashman from a mile away. Here is a quick reaction.
First, none of the prospects are particularly close. The centerpieces – Duran and Pereira, in my opinion – are still quite a ways away in the lower minors. That means there’s still a ton of upside but a ton of risk, and none of them were going to help the Yankees in the short-term. They are also all off to hot starts to the season, which means it might make sense to capitalize on their hot value now. Gallo, as you know by now, is a good player. You could argue that there is missed opportunity cost – what else could they have gotten with these prospects? – but the Yankees desperately needed offensive help. I’m not complaining.
Second, this is a pure depth move. It vaulted the Yankees’ farm back on the FanGraph rankings from #4 overall before the trade to #11, but it’s worth noting that they kept Anthony Volpe, Clarke Schmidt, Luis Gil, Luis Medina, Oswald Peraza, and Jasson Dominguez. That, too, is a Cashman special: trade from depth, keep the high-end pieces the team really values.
Third, it clears the offseason’s Rule 5 backlog. Otto, Duran, and Pereira were all Rule 5 eligible after the season. They had tough decisions to make with both Duran and Pereira, and this solves that. Coupled with the earlier trade of Park and Castillo, 5 of the 11 eligible players are now off the docket. Turning your fringe roster pieces into an elite MLB hitter is no joke. (Technically, the Yankees could get some of them back, should Texas not protect them. I’d be shocked if that was the case, though. Why trade for guys you don’t want to protect?)
Fourth, it clears the way for some of the other middle infield prospects like Volpe, Vargas, and Peraza. A backlog isn’t that big of a deal, and you don’t make a trade with this in mind, but I do view this as an implicit endorsement of the talent they kept behind. This opens the door for consistent playing time for all of them.
Finally, preserving the top talent allows for additional moves if necessary – and ones that may take higher-value pieces. Those are chips that could be cashed in the offseason or in a few days. The Yankees still have prospect capital and that is not nothing. Giving up 6 (!) prospects and being able to say that is a testament to the depth in the organization.
Well, this is a lot of words. If you couldn’t tell, I quite like the trade. It helps the Yankees now and they didn’t sacrifice a ton of prospect pieces to get it. Some of them may hurt in the long-run. That’s how it goes. I get why Texas took the chance they did. That said, it’s hard not to love this as a Yankee fan. They got better this year and next.
They also managed to stay under the luxury tax threshold, which grosses me out as even a consideration. But alas, that’s the world we live in, and it’s a testament to Cashman that this was able to get done. (I still don’t like the Cessa trade, but whatever. The constraints are the constraints.)
Finally, just as a throwaway line, it is absolutely hilarious that the Yankees cashed in their chips for the 2021 team and not the 2019 one. It’s fine, and I’m glad that this trade happened, of course, but that’s still funny to me and it always will be. Anyway, it’s always a good day when your favorite team improves. That is why we’re all here, isn’t it?