Should the Astros Try to Acquire Joey Gallo at the Deadline?
Joey Gallo is a possible trade candidate this season, and the Astros are likely to at least take notice.
According to a recent report from MLB insider Jon Heyman, the New York Yankees have been shopping Joey Gallo around the league this season. Gallo certainly presents as an interesting option for any team who would be willing to take on him; he’s the epitome of a “three true outcomes” hitter, meaning he strikes out and walks a lot as a result of his approach to sell out for home runs. The Houston Astros have been in the market for an outfielder as a result of the high-potential but unproven young players they have in their depth chart (Chas McCormick, Jake Meyers, Jose Siri), along with recent injuries to Michael Brantley and Yordan Alvarez.
Gallo is someone that Astros fans should recognize from his days as a Texas Ranger, and predictably, a hitter with his approach at the plate can experience the highest of highs and the lowest of lows offensively. He broke out in 2017 at just 23 years old, smashing at least 40 home runs in each of his first couple of big-league seasons. He had an OPS+ of 118 and 109 respectively in 2017 and 2018, making him one of the most polarizing and productive power hitters in baseball. In 2019, he missed time with injury, but put up his career-best OPS+ (145) and hit 22 home runs in just 70 games. As the Rangers trudged through a rebuild, they sent him to the Yankees a year ago for a hefty prospect package. At the time of the deal, Gallo had an OPS+ of 138 and 25 home runs, coming off a deserved All-Star appearance.
Things have gone sour since then, however, and he has not been someone that Yankees fans have relished. In 130 games with the Yankees at the time of writing, Gallo is batting just .163. He’s still walking a lot, but not enough to put his OBP above .300. That all culminates in an ugly OPS of .663, well below league average. He has 23 home runs in pinstripes, which isn’t awful at all, but the bad has outweighed the good in his Yankees tenure. Case in point: in 2021, he led the AL in walks…and also strikeouts. The Yankees, as the best seed in the AL in 2022, have been more than able to live with his underwhelming performance, but they’ve set such a high standard that it might be time to accept the Gallo experiment has failed and find a replacement for him.
One thing that would help the Astros’ pitching staff even more is that Gallo is proficient in right field. Left field is his primary position, but he is at his most valuable defensively in right: he has 7 Statcast outs above average at the position since the start of the 2021 season. As well, acquiring him would likely allow Yordan Alvarez to DH a lot more, something that has been mentioned since the scary collision he had in left field a few weeks ago in New York. There is merit to the notion that someone who is as good a hitter as Alvarez should not be risking their health by playing in the field, which he hardly did in his rookie-of-the-year season in 2019. Between the defensive ability and the added roster flexibility, Gallo could help the Astros even if he doesn’t perform to his full potential at the plate.
With all that being said, however, I ultimately believe that acquiring Joey Gallo would hurt Houston more than it would help. It is far too risky to sacrifice an already-thin prospect pool to acquire a pending free agent that has barely been a MLB-level hitter this season. While the best version of Gallo could be a game-changer for Houston, he has been a glaring liability since leaving Texas. As well, manager Dusty Baker has said that Alvarez’s injury is progressing well, so reinforcements are already coming to the roster as it is. If the Astros still want to bolster their outfield externally, there are more reliable options than Gallo, such as Bryan Reynolds and David Peralta. It could very well be true that a change of scenery is all he needs to rebound, but the Astros should pass on Joey Gallo at this year’s trade deadline.