The White Sox need a center fielder to replace Luis Robert. The Rangers need a face-saving deal that justifies holding onto Joey Gallo beyond 2019, when the writing was on the wall in terms of the need to rebuild and the left-handed power hitter had maximum trade value.
This is as good as a fit can be for an early-season trade. I’m recommending Rick Hahn gets Jon Daniel on the phone and doesn’t let him hang up until they’ve worked out the details.
The White Sox are clearly in a win-now mode but have lost two-thirds of their outfield (and much of the middle of their lineup) to injuries. The timetable for Robert to return from a Grade 3 hip flexor strain is about the same as it is for Eloy Jimenez to recover from the ruptured pectoral tendon suffered late in spring training. It’s unlikely either return before September, and both could be out till next spring.
That’s a long time to work with a patchwork outfield featuring regular stints from Billy Hamilton, Leury Garcia, Adam Engel (once he’s back from his own serious hamstring issue) and Brian Goodwin, who was signed Tuesday after opting out from his minor-league contract in Pittsburgh. The Sox currently are playing converted first baseman Andrew Vaughn in left and Adam Eaton in right with neither outfield depth nor advanced outfield prospects in their system.
The time is right for a significant acquisition, beyond the level of Goodwin or what’s left of Hamilton. Gallo no longer looks like the power-hitting stud who mashed 81 homers — yes, while striking out 403 times) while playing 293 games in 2017 and ’18 but at the minimum he would keep the White Sox lineup long and at best he’d take a lot of heat off Jose Abreu, Yasmani Grandal and Yoan Moncada.
After hearing for years he needed to cut down the strikeouts, Gallo is taking more pitches this season. But through 29 games he hasn’t hit for his usual power, putting together a surprising slash line of .234/.410/.351.
Gallo leads the American League in both strikeouts and walks and has seen his ratio of homers per at-bats drop from one every 11 at-bats in 2019 to one every 31.3 at-bats. He’ll likely wind up close to one every 20 at-bats, which is where he was last season, but the skyrocketing on-base percentage provides value of its own.
He surprisingly won a Gold Glove after moving from center to right field last season, leading major league outfielders with 12 Defensive Runs Saved, per Statcast. He should be able to handle a move back to center but he’s a different kind of player than the ultra-aggressive Robert, who also won a Gold Glove last season.
in his age-27 season, Gallo is earning $6 million this season. That’s just a tick less than half of what the Rays are paying Kevin Kiermaier, who they would love to trade.
Gallo, a Scott Boras client, isn’t up for free agency until after next season. The Sox can choose between him and Eaton (club option for 2022) in the off-season, either not picking up Eaton’s option or trading or non-tendering Gallo.
Now the hard part.
Because Gallo has been the Rangers’ prime attraction for an unhappy fan base, the White Sox can’t expect to get him cheaply. We’re not talking about an Andrew Vaughn trade but they’ll need to be willing to part with some young pitching, as they did when they sent Dane Dunning to Texas in the Lance Lynn deal last off-season. They do have it to trade.
Count on Daniels asking about Michael Kopech, and Hahn telling him to move on. The conversation around Dylan Cease might last longer but he’d be tough to deal now that he seems to have lessened his control issues. The guess here is the White Sox would have to get more back from Texas to risk trading five years of Cease for one of Gallo but there are other arms sure to intrigue Daniels.
Garrett Crochet’s potential jumps off the page. Jared Kelley and Matthew Thompson are young Texans whose high ceilings led to the White Sox signing them for $3 million and $2.1 million, respectively, after selecting them in the second rounds of recent drafts. They are only now being unveiled for public viewing because of the Covid-19 pandemic but are well known commodities in scout circles. Ditto 20-year-old righty Andrew Dalquist.
Hahn would probably be filleted on talk radio for trading any of these guys but you’ve got to give to get. Guys like Zack Collins, Reynaldo Lopez, Jake Burger (a third-base lottery ticket) and the power-hitting Gavin Sheets might be added as deal sweeteners but Texas isn’t trading Gallo unless Daniels and new general manager Chris Young get back pieces franchise owners Ray Davis and Bob Simpson can brag about.
There’s a deal to be made. Hahn needs to get busy and make it.