DETROIT – At maybe the lowest point of the season, Rangers manager Chris Woodward sought out Joey Gallo, reached out and shook his hand.
Woodward had preached the need for fight and grit for two days, and in Gallo, he saw, perhaps, the team’s only current personification of it. In a 14-0 loss to Detroit, the third-straight shutout loss the Rangers had suffered, Gallo had two rifles from right field for outfield assists.
“That speaks volumes to me,” Woodward said of Gallo’s performance and competitive demeanor. “That’s the kind of guy you want to build around.”
Woodward said more in his Monday postgame press conference, but let’s stop there, because everyone knows we have to stop there.
This is not a secret: Within the next 10 days, Gallo – a homegrown prospect and the Rangers’ longest tenured member – will know his immediate baseball fate. He’ll either be dealt to a contender before the deadline, or he’ll still belong on the team that drafted him, something Gallo said he’s made “crystal clear” he wants. With one year of arbitration left after this year before free agency, Gallo could even get a shiny new extension with the Rangers. General Manager Chris Young has previously said the team is considering doing a long-term deal with Gallo and agent Scott Boras.
The secret is what the Rangers will actually decide.
“It’s a big decision for us,” Rangers President of Baseball Operations Jon Daniels said Wednesday.
Big, because it isn’t an easy one – for multiple reasons.
The first lies in the objective. Gallo is 27, a two-time All-Star, a Gold Glove right fielder – as evidenced by his seven outfield assists and 11 runs saved – and a slugger who’s on pace for his third 40+ home run season. The other two seasons were the only times he’s appeared in more than 70 games. His slash line was .230/.388/.505 entering Wednesday’s game in Detroit. He has the third most strikeouts in the league, but countered by the most walks. He’s fifth among positional players in the MLB with a WAR (wins above replacement) of 4.1.
That portion of Gallo’s value is data-driven, but the Gallo’s subjective value carries weight, too, especially with the Rangers.
Being a leader comes with the territory for the longest-tenured player on a team, and Woodward said Gallo has been phenomenal with it this year. Gallo possesses a “humble heart” according to Woodward, and leads others by example. That was the case when he was hitting .218 with two home runs after the first month, and it didn’t change when sticky substances were banned on June 21, the unofficial starting point of his hot streak heading into the All-Star Game. He hit .327 with 12 home runs in that span.
It was a first half crescendo for Gallo, and the way he went building toward it spoke volumes.
“He plays the game so hard and he does so many things so well, so maybe when the offense isn’t where it’s typically at, or the power is not where it’s typically at – like early in the year – he’s playing awesome defense, he’s a great base runner and he’s playing hard,” said Nick Solak, who’s in his third year in the big leagues.
“Listening to him talk about how he was never worried that hot stretch was going to come, and during that time it might not have been there, to really focus on his defense and base running and being a good teammate, that’s something we’ve learned from Joey through this season and up to this point.”
Those factors carry weight with Daniels, who said there’s value in having continuity and keeping successful veterans. They’re also part of the reason Woodward thinks Gallo is a player worth building around, but that happening at the corner of E Randol Mill Road and Stadium Drive isn’t so straight forward.
Daniels said there’s been “quite a bit” of conversation with other teams, though it doesn’t guarantee a lot of trade deadline activity.
“We’ve had the types of conversations you would expect a team in our position in the standings to have,” Daniels said, “getting called on players that could help a contender, especially on guys who are at the end of their contracts.”
Like starter Kyle Gibson, an All-Star whose contract ends after $7 million in 2022. Like closer Ian Kennedy, whose expiring contract could shape into a contender’s plans for a playoff push. Or, of course, Gallo.
At this point, Gallo understands what the next 10 days means – what it feels like. Baseball is a business, and if the market yields an offer the rebuilding Rangers can’t afford to pass up, Gallo could go.
Woodward, a former player, understands what the next week and a half means, as well. “It sucks,” he said, but transactions and roster moves are inevitable.
“I’ll always appreciate the investment and the time we’ve had together,” Woodward said of players that do get treated. “Not only is it [player]-manager, but you know, as human beings and friends. It’s tough. It’s part of the business and we all know. We’ve got to deal with it.”
As the longest-tenured player on the Rangers, no one has invested more than Gallo. He’s a player Texas could build around if he’s still here in 10 days.
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