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OPINION | TYLER KEPNER: With Gallo, Yanks know the outcome

by TYLER KEPNER NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE | July 30, 2021 at 2:25 a.m.

The New York Yankees just got the player who best represents today's style of baseball. He is Joey Gallo, and when he comes to bat, the fielders might as well take a break.

Gallo, whom the Yankees acquired in a trade with the Texas Rangers on Thursday, has walked, struck out or homered -- the sport's so-called three true outcomes -- in 57.7% of his plate appearances this season. His career batting average is .211, the lowest in the majors since his 2015 debut among players with as many turns at bat.

The Yankees, of course, do not concern themselves with the entertainment value of a sport running low on action. Gallo excels at the qualities that matter most to the Yankees, who trail in the American League East and wild-card standings. Besides, they believe Gallo brings much more than strikeouts, walks and home runs.

"I'm not concerned that we're adding a guy that gets on 38% of the time this year and hits the ball over the fence," Manager Aaron Boone said, dryly, before Thursday's matinee in St. Petersburg, Fla., a 14-0 rout by the Tampa Bay Rays.

"We've seen over the last month or two a guy that's really starting to take off again. He's a great player; sign me up for the guy that's on base almost 40% of the time and has that kind of power and provides that kind of potential balance for our lineup, and on top of it is a two-way player. This is a guy that really defends and can run and do all those things."

The Yankees traded four prospects -- the Class AAA right-handed starter Glenn Otto and three Class A infielders -- to the Rangers for Gallo and Joely Rodriguez, a left-handed reliever. Gallo, who earlier this month made his second American League All-Star team, is hitting .223 with 25 home runs, 125 strikeouts and a major league-best 74 walks. No current Yankee has a better on-base percentage than Gallo's .379.

Gallo, who cannot be a free agent until after next season, will give the Yankees the left-handed presence they desperately need. He figures to slot into the lineup between two other sluggers, right-handers Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton.

They will strike out often, to be sure. But at their best, they will wear down pitchers and punish mistakes.

"With Judge and Joey, they're probably not going to chase a ton -- they're going to make you get in the zone, and that's where the damage gets done," said former left-handed pitcher C.J. Nitkowski, a Rangers TV analyst. "And Joey has never hit in front of anybody as good as Stanton in his career. I can see why they would try to project a higher upside based on where he fits in that lineup."

There is more to like about Gallo, a Las Vegas native who honed his swing as an amateur with help from former Yankee Jason Giambi, who ran a hitting facility that employed Gallo's father as an instructor. Gallo almost never grounds into double plays (just nine in more than 2,100 career plate appearances), and leads all left-handed hitters in home runs off lefty pitchers since 2017, with 44.

Gallo is also huge (6-5, 250) but his size obscures his dexterity in the field. He won a Gold Glove in right field last season and has made at least 30 career starts in left, center and both corner infield spots. This is his seventh season in the majors but is only 27 years old.

"I knew his reputation as an athlete and a defender, but seeing him in Texas when we went there for that four-game series, to see him run, to see him move in the outfield, to see him throw, you really took notice of it," Boone said. "He really jumps off the screen at you with how physically impressive he is with his athleticism."

Gallo leads AL right fielders in putouts and ranks second in outfield assists, with nine. With Judge in right field for the Yankees, Gallo could play center or left and take some of the burden off veteran Brett Gardner, who has been pressed into an everyday role because of injuries to Aaron Hicks and others.

The Yankees have tweaked their bullpen this week, too, acquiring right-hander Clay Holmes from Pittsburgh for two minor league infielders, sending Luis Cessa and Justin Wilson to Cincinnati for a player to be determined and bringing in Rodriguez, who has held lefties to a .176 average this season (6 for 34) with no home runs.

But their main objective was improving a flawed lineup -- and they did that with Gallo, an imperfect player who does a few important things very well.

"No player's perfect," Boone said. "But it's hard to argue we're not a lot better team adding Joey Gallo."

Print Headline: With Gallo, Yanks know the outcome

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