The Detroit Tigers need power and outfielders.
It’s been a brutal year for the Detroit Tigers. The pitching staff has suffered misfortunes on a scale seldom seen outside of Springfield, and they are arguably the worst offensive team of the last 50 years.
It’s probably time to start thinking about 2023. But there’s still 2/3 of a season to go, and even with their ugly 21-33 record, the Tigers are a mere six games out of a Wild Card spot.
They certainly don’t look like any kind of playoff team right now. There are 174 players with at least 160 plate appearances this year, and by wRC+ the Detroit Tigers have 5 of the worst 20 hitters in baseball.
So what does a team like this do? Even with some help on the way, the offense is too flawed, and the team too far behind in the standings to justify a blockbuster trade. And they aren’t overflowing with obvious trade chips to get better next year.
There IS a third kind of trade possibility, but teams rarely try it because the conditions need to be just right. It’s a proof-of-concept trade.
Here’s how it works. The acquiring team is out of the playoff picture, but has designs on being a contender soon. They also have a glaring need unlikely to be fixed by internal options in the near future. So they trade for an impending free agent, usually one who has worn out his welcome with his current team, and then give him a few months to see if he might be a fit with their club.
The most relevant example of this kind of deal for Detroit Tigers fans is the 2010 trade for shortstop Jhonny Peralta. When the Tigers acquired Peralta they were 51-49, and five games out of first. But they were a deeply flawed team in the midst of a 3-13 skid, with Adam Everett, Ramon Santiago, and Danny Worth splitting time at shortstop.
Meanwhile, Cleveland had seemingly soured on Peralta, moving him from his preferred shortstop position to third base in 2009 to make room for Asdrubal Cabrera. Peralta had an option for 2011, but he was not a part of Cleveland’s plans, so they sent him to the Tigers for minor-league lefty Giovanni Soto.
Peralta played pretty well for the Tigers down the stretch, returning to shortstop and batting .253 with 8 home runs in 57 games. Detroit then re-signed him to a three-year deal for just under $17 million total, and he became a key cog for three division winners.
All of which brings us to Joey Gallo.
Who is Joey Gallo?
A native of Las Vegas, Gallo has been lauded for his top-of-the-scale power since he was in high school. The Texas Rangers drafted him 39th overall in 2012, and despite some severe concerns about his contact ability, prospect sites quickly ranked him in their top 100, and eventually among the top ten prospects in all of baseball. He famously broke the windshield of a truck during batting practice for the 2014 Futures Game.
It took him a few seasons to find his footing in the big leagues, and he moved around the infield before settling in as an outfielder. But he hit 40+ home runs in 2017 and 2018, made the All-Star team in 2019, and won Gold Gloves in 2020 and 2021.
Joey Gallo also happens to be an absolute nightmare for old-school traditionalists. His career batting average of .204 is the third lowest in the Live-Ball Era, behind only catchers Jeff Mathis and Mike Zunino. He has struck out in 37% of his plate appearances for his career.
But he walks, hits for power, and plays good defense. From 2017 to 2021 he accumulated 14.5 fWAR, the 15th most for any outfielder. He ranked just ahead of J.D. Martinez, and just behind Chris Taylor.
Gallo was having a career year in 2021, and the New York Yankees thought enough of him that they sent four quality prospects to Texas to land him. Everything has been a disaster since.
Gallo produced a career worst .707 OPS after the trade, and things have only gotten worse this season. He did hit a home run against the Tigers the other day, but he’s batting .176 with six home runs and just nine RBIs.
Gallo has also regressed on defense this year, at least according to Baseball Savant. He is a player with pretty glaring flaws, and Yankees fans are happy to let him know that. He needs to get out of New York, and executives around the league think he will.
Is Joey Gallo a fit for the Detroit Tigers?
Honestly, we don’t know. But that’s the point of a deal like this. Instead of waiting until the off-season and taking a risk in free agency, you take Gallo for a test drive now.
The Tigers already rank 28th in batting average, so it’s not like Gallo can drag them down much further. Meanwhile, his 12.3% walk rate would rank second on the club. And his six home runs are equal to that of the entire Detroit Tigers outfield this season.
It’s hard to imagine the Yankees getting a ton of offers for Gallo, so the price tag can’t be too high. And Maybe Gallo thrives away from the pressure of New York and helps the Tigers get back into the playoff race.
But even if he continues to struggle, there’s not a whole lot for the Tigers to lose here. He’d be gone at the end of the year, and his run with the Tigers would just be one of many bad memories from the 2022 season.