MLB Trade Rumors: Joey Gallo and Kyle Gibson are among the top players available at this year’s trade deadline, and Ken Rosenthal’s piece today on the upcoming deadline leads off with talk of the two Texas Rangers All Stars who could potentially be on the move this month.
Gallo and Gibson are arguably the top position player and starting pitcher, respectively, who could be moved by the trade deadline, which is at 3 p.m. Central time on Friday, July 30, 2021 — just eleven days away. I have a hard time getting a read on which one is more likely to be traded, and one, both, or neither of them getting dealt would not be surprisingly.
Gibson would seem on the surface to be more likely to be dealt — he’s the latest of the Rangers veteran three year deal success stories, putting up a 2.29 ERA in 102 IP over 17 starts this season after a disappointing 2020 campaign when he had a 5.35 ERA. He’s added a cutter that has been a weapon for him, and since his disastrous Opening Day start, he has put up a 1.86 ERA in 101.2 IP while allowing opponents a slash line of .202/.264/.301. He also doesn’t really figure to factor into the Rangers’ long-term plans, as he will turn 35 when his contract expires after the 2022 season. A buyer looking for a quality pitcher who isn’t a rental, and who is also relatively inexpensive (Gibson will be owed a little over $3 million for 2021 at the deadline, and is under contract for 2022 at $7 million), is going to find Gibson an attractive option.
The flip side is that Gibson is on an attractive, inexpensive contract because he doesn’t have a track record of performing at this level. This is his ninth season in the majors, but he has put up a better than league average ERA+ only twice prior to this year, with four years with an ERA+ in the 83-87 range, including last year’s 86 ERA+. Gibson’s FIP of 3.47 and xERA of 3.52 are indicative of a pitcher performing in an above-average but not dominant fashion. Rosenthal notes there is some skepticism about where Gibson would slot into a playoff rotation, and one has to think the return for Gibson will likely be less than what the Rangers received for Lance Lynn this past winter.
On the flip side, Joey Gallo is just 27 years old, is in the midst of his second great year in the last three seasons, has a career high bWAR, and has posted a bWAR of at least 2.4 in four of the last five seasons. He’s someone who has expressed a desire to stay with the Rangers and to sign long-term with Texas. He would appear to be the type of player who is a potential cornerstone for the franchise.
Gallo also, however, would seem to be more likely than Gibson to bring a substantial return. A middle of the order hitter with game-changing power and terrific outfield defense is going to be a fit with any playoff contender, and the prospect of getting an impact hitter who is under team control through 2022 is going to be attractive to buyers.
The big question, of course, is how attractive — and that probably is part of the reason why the Rangers haven’t extended Gallo yet. Reports going back a year now have indicated that the Rangers’ asking price on Gallo is extremely high. The Rangers don’t appear likely to part with Gallo without getting a huge return. The Rangers front office may be waiting to see if someone bites the bullet over the next week-plus and offers up a substantial enough package for them to ship Gallo out.
While Ken Rosenthal mentions the New York Yankees as a possibility, I’m not sure how aggressive the Yankees are going to be right now, given they are seven games back of Boston (and 6.5 games back of Tampa) in the American League East, as well as 3.5 games back of Oakland for the second wild card spot. If we assume that whichever of Boston or Tampa doesn’t win the East gets a wild card berth — Tampa is currently 3 games up on Oakland, and 5.5 games up on Toronto and Seattle — then you have five or six teams competing for one spot. I’m not sure those are the sort of odds that will result in the Yankees going heavy at the deadline.
The other team mentioned by Rosenthal, though, seems much more likely. That team is the San Diego Padres, currently holding the second Wild Card spot, four games back of the Dodgers for WC1 and five games back of the National League West lead. The Padres have been rumored to be pursuing Gallo since last summer, and they have a recent history of spending big (in terms of prospects) to get what they want. The article features this tidbit:
“I think Gallo is the one guy A.J. might unload for,” said one official who has been in touch with the Padres.
What does “unload” mean? That’s hard to say. C.J. Abrams is someone the Rangers reportedly coveted, and the 20 year old shortstop was justifying his top 10 prospect in MLB status with a .296/.363/.420 performance in AA before a sprained MCL and broken leg ended his season prematurely. I’m not sure if, even with the injury, the Padres would part with Abrams, and Abrams having just suffered that sort of injury creates a cloud of uncertainty that is going to impact the Rangers’ valuation of him.
Robert Hassell, the Padres’ first round pick in 2020, is a name that would be worth keeping an eye on if talks heat up. Hassell, who turns 20 in August, is a center fielder who went 8th overall in 2020, and who is slashing .308/.397/.464 in low-A currently. He’s someone who I could see the Rangers targeting in a deal, and he’s someone the Padres would likely not have as untouchable in a Gallo deal.
Texas could sweeten the pot by offering to take one of the Padres’ big, upside down contracts — Wil Myers or Eric Hosmer — off the Padres’ hands. Myers is making $22.5 million this year and next year, with a $1 million buyout in 2023 due, while Hosmer is making $21 million this year and next year, then is owed $13 million per year from 2023-25 if he doesn’t opt out after 2022. The Padres are very close to the luxury tax line, and may see moving prospects — which they figure they can always find more of — in order to get a big contract off the books as a reasonable move in connection with getting Gallo.
And finally, speaking of taking on contracts, Rosenthal mentions towards the end of his piece the possibility of the Minnesota Twins moving Josh Donaldson, and the possibility of the Twins eating some of his remaining deal to facilitate getting his contract off their books. Rosenthal has Donaldson as being owed around $57 million as of the deadline. Donaldson is under contract for 2022 and 2023, and has a $16 million option for 2024 with an $8 million buyout, so a team could keep him an extra year for an additional $8 million.
We have talked about the Rangers needing an impact bat, and the possibility of pursuing a Kris Bryant to play third base, as well as shortstops like Trevor Story, Carlos Correa and Corey Seager being out there. As a team coming off what is likely to be a 90+ loss season, however, not only are you going to have to commit huge dollars for a long period of time to land one of those guys, you’re also likely going to have to pay a premium over other teams that are better positioned to contend right away.
So what about Donaldson? He’s 35, but he’s still hitting — he is slashing .252/.354/.487 this year — and still plays a capable third base, and could potentially be used at first base or DH, as well. He would be a short-term commitment. And as we have discussed, the Rangers have plenty of money to spend in the short term.
If the Rangers are looking to take a step forward in 2022, and want to give the lineup a boost, taking on Donaldson and Donaldson’s contract, with some subsidy from the Twins in the form of cash, prospects, or both, would potentially make a lot of sense. It wouldn’t keep you from making other moves in the offseason, it would lock in someone who you don’t have to worry about going elsewhere, and it doesn’t tie your hands long-term.
Josh Donaldson to Texas, either now or in the offseason, is an out-of-the-box move that makes a good deal of sense. Is it likely to happen? No. But I suspect it is something at least being discussed by the Rangers front office right now.