Editorials

Mariners: Joey Gallo is Apparently Polarizing and I’m Not Sure Why

There has been some speculation this winter that the New York Yankees may be willing to move former Texas Ranger Joey Gallo. The mere mention of Gallo and the Mariners has generated a lot of attention, and I’m not sure why.

The Seattle Mariners will enter the 2022 season with playoff expectations and if they wish to meet those expectations, they’ll need help in the outfield. One of the players who may be an option to provide such help is Joey Gallo. But when I sent a tweet mentioning that I like the idea of Gallo in a Mariners uniform, I got some pushback.

The concern appears to be based mostly on Gallo’s batting average and strikeout issues. There also seems to be an idea that Gallo is a one-dimensional player. And here’s the thing about those complaints, they’re mostly true (with the exception of the final retort). Gallo doesn’t hit for a high average and he does strike out quite a bit. But let’s consider the context of those facts.

Gallo is a career .206 hitter who hit just .199 in 2021. This is, objectively poor. But while Gallo doesn’t get a lot of hits, he does draw a ton of walks. So much so that his .351 OBP in 2021 was 34 points higher than the league average. And when Gallo does make contact, he’s doing a lot more damage than the average hitter. In 2021 Gallo posted a .458 slugging percentage, almost 50 points higher than the league average of .411. In addition, Gallo’s ISO (Slugging minus BA) ranked 16th in all of baseball.

To put those numbers into perspective, Gallo’s 2021 season would have seen him rank second on the Mariners in OBP and home runs, first in BB% and walks, as well as strikeouts and ISO. Gallo’s 123 wRC+ would have put him right between Ty France and Mitch Haniger and he would have led the team in Off (Fangraphs formula that takes both baserunning and hitting into consideration to assign value to the overall offense output).

Gallo has also graded out as an above-average corner outfielder, finishing with positive OAA (outs above-average) and UZR scores in the outfield, including some favorable marks as a centerfielder in 2019. He also possesses above-average speed, ranking in the 58th percentile in sprint speed in 2021. By any metric, Gallo is an above-average offensive and defensive player who provides the Mariners some much-needed left-handed power and outfield defense. Gallo’s 3.5 fWAR in 2021 was the same as Ty France and value is value, even if it is achieved in an unconventional way.

The simple truth is that despite the strikeouts and low batting average, Gallo is still a good major leaguer and the Mariners cannot afford to turn their nose at the possibility of adding his bat to the lineup, regardless of the supposed depth in the outfield. Cause when you really think about it, how many MLB quality outfielders does the team currently have on its roster? Not projected to be quality. Not “hoping” to be quality. Proven, quality MLB players. Your answer cannot be higher than two and even that is a stretch.

We think Julio Rodriguez will hold his own next year, but Jarred Kelenic didn’t. We think Kelenic’s September was real, but are you willing to toss the first 3 months of struggles to the side? We haven’t gotten a full season from Kyle Lewis or Jake Fraley. And even Mitch Haniger is a player whose defense is rapidly regressing and despite him making it through the 2021 season without injury, you absolutely need to be cautious banking on him doing it again.

Look, nobody is suggesting that you should pay whatever the Yankees want for Gallo. Hell, he may not even be available. But there are people suggesting that the Mariners cannot afford to add an outfielder like Gallo because he’ll take at-bats away from other players and they are absolutely wrong. Gallo is going to make your team better. And if that’s not something you’re even willing to consider, I hope you’re not complaining if Seattle misses the playoffs for the 21st straight season.

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