The Padres should consider Joey Gallo (again)

Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Mandatory Credit: Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

With the conclusion of the 2022 MLB season, A.J. Preller and the San Diego Padres are now tasked with building the roster for 2023.

Among the many needs to be filled is the one left by Jurickson Profar after he opted out of his contract. The team could choose to fill this vacancy with an internal option like Fernando Tatis Jr.  What if they looked into free agency for the answer instead? 

Over the past few years the Padres have been linked to slugger Joey Gallo. The rumor in 2021 was that the Padres and Texas Rangers discussed a Gallo trade centered around Robert Hassell III. The deal obviously fell through, and Gallo was subsequently traded to the New York Yankees, eventually landing with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Gallo had limited success with both organizations. However, before both of those trades, he was recognized as one of the best bats in all of baseball. Now that he is a free agent, Gallo is expected to sign a one-year “prove-it” deal for somewhere around $10 million.

Having three seasons of 38 or more home runs and a barrel rate in the 98th percentile, according to Statcast, it’s easy to see Gallo as a solution to the Padres lack of power in the lineup. He also ranks in the 95th percentile in walk rate showing his discipline at the plate. However, the knock on Gallo for most of his career has been his strikeout rate. He is in the 1st percentile, or worst in the league, in strikeout rate. Gallo is one of the ultimate all-or-nothing hitters in baseball.

There is a lot of swing and miss to his game that can make him fall into long stretches without a hit. He is the ultimate “three outcome” hitter, meaning most of his at-bats end in a home run, walk, or strikeout.

This past season, the Padres didn’t have much issue getting on base. In fact, they had the 8th-highest team OBP for 2022. What they lacked was power, ranking 22nd in team slugging. It would make sense to add a hitter like Gallo. The team can afford to give up a little bit of the on-base rate if they can replace it with the slugging power they so desperately need.

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On defense, Gallo is no slouch. In 2020 and 2021, he earned the Rawlings Gold Glove award for right field. According to Statcast, his arm strength is in the 90th percentile, outfield jump in the 82nd percentile, and has 40 career outfield assists per Fangraphs. Gallo has experience playing all three outfield positions, but expecting him to play center field in the large ballparks of the NL West would be expecting too much. Keeping him as a corner outfielder puts him in the best situation to succeed. An outfield of Gallo, Juan Soto, and Trent Grisham would be equally efficient offensively as defensively. 

The Padres and A.J. Preller have an opportunity to add a 40 home run left-handed slugger to the middle of the lineup that plays a Gold Glove-caliber right field for as little as $10 million this season. There are some obvious risks associated, but for the money, Gallo is as good as any other option in free agency.

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