Mariners, Phillies, Yankees, Explored Deadline Trade Involving Marco Gonzales, Joey Gallo

Prior to the August 2 trade deadline, the Mariners, Phillies, and Yankees had some negotiations about a potential three-team swap, according to The Seattle Times’ Ryan Divish.  Left-hander Marco Gonzales would’ve headed to Philadelphia and outfielder Joey Gallo “possibly” would’ve been dealt to the Mariners, though it isn’t known what player or players New York would’ve acquired in this proposed deal.

As it turned out, the Yankees instead moved Gallo to the Dodgers for pitching prospect Clayton Beeter, with Los Angeles absorbing the roughly $3.7MM remaining on Gallo’s 2022 salary at the time of the deadline.  The Phillies added Noah Syndergaard to their rotation rather than Gonzales, who stayed put in the Pacific Northwest.  Rather than move Gonzales or any other starters, the Mariners instead added to their rotation depth with a blockbuster trade to pry Luis Castillo away from the Reds.

Teams routinely discuss all manner of trades in the days and months prior to deadline day, and it isn’t known if this particular three-team deal (or even some permutation of a deal) was anywhere close to becoming a reality.  However, this floated trade certainly carries plenty of “what if?” consideration given that the three connected teams all made deep playoff runs, with the Phillies in particular reaching the World Series.  Also, given that Gallo is a free agent and Gonzales is still drawing trade interest, it’s worth wondering if those past summer trade talks could influence some moves yet to come this winter.

Let’s begin with Gallo, who struggled through a rough 2022 season but still had some value for a Mariners team that was looking for outfield depth.  In the lead-up to the deadline, Julio Rodriguez was battling wrist problems and Mitch Haniger was still on the 60-day injured list recovering from a high ankle sprain.  Utility options Dylan Moore and Sam Haggerty were also banged up, and the M’s weren’t satisfied with what Jesse Winker or Jarred Kelenic were bringing to the table.  As Divish noted both in this piece and back in July, the M’s were actually exploring trading either Winker or Kelenic.

The two remain trade candidates in the offseason, and the Mariners are still looking for outfield help in general.  However, the M’s have already landed one new everyday corner outfielder in Teoscar Hernandez, and dealt Kyle Lewis to the Diamondbacks in another trade, so the Seattle outfield picture is quite different than it was back in July and early August.  It isn’t out of the question that the M’s could still make a play to land Gallo, though he might be more of a backup plan if such higher-tier free agents (i.e. Brandon Nimmo, Andrew Benintendi) couldn’t be signed.  Winker, Kelenic, and Taylor Trammell are all left-handed hitters, so it could also be possible Seattle would trade from this surplus before looking into signing Gallo.

Pitcher-friendly T-Mobile Park might not be the ideal spot for a power-centric player like Gallo to rebuild his value, and the slugger has only a .190/275/.372 slash line over 153 plate appearances at T-Mobile as a visiting player.  That said, Gallo had a 4.2 fWAR season as recently as 2021, and could regain some of his old form simply with another change of scenery after his lackluster showings in New York and Los Angeles.

It was an odd season for Gallo, who had some of the game’s best walk, hard-hit ball, and barrel rates.  He also had a 39.8% strikeout rate (far and away the worst of any player with at least 400 plate appearances), as Gallo’s “three true outcomes” approach was carried to absurd extremes.  Unfortunately for Gallo, the third outcome wasn’t quite as extreme, as he hit 19 homers in 401 PA and his .197 Isolated Power metric was well below the .283 career IP he posted from 2015-21.

Gallo struggled whether or not he faced defensive shifts in 2022, and he actually had a better wOBA against the shift than without facing shifts (.350 to .323) in 2021.  That said, the new rules limiting the use of shifts might have at least some impact on improving Gallo’s numbers, given opposing teams regularly deployed the shift against Gallo over 90% of the time.

There has been a lot of speculation about whether or not Seattle could trade at least one of Gonzales or Chris Flexen this winter, since the M’s have been connected to Kodai Senga and Matt Brash is also on hand as a potential fifth starter.  The rest of the rotation is set, with Castillo, Robbie Ray, Logan Gilbert, and George Kirby forming an impressive quartet of arms.  Gonzales (who turns 31 in February) is over two years older than Flexen, and is more expensive — Gonzales is owed $6.5MM in 2023 and $12MM in 2024, while Flexen is only under contract through the 2023 season on an $8MM salary.

Given Gonzales’ longer-term contract, the Phillies seemingly had interest in the left-hander as more than just a rental player, so it would stand to reason that he might still be on their radar heading into 2023.  With Syndergaard, Zach Eflin, and Kyle Gibson hitting free agency, the Phillies could use a durable veteran like Gonzales to reinforce the back end of their rotation.

Aaron Nola and Zack Wheeler are Philadelphia’s two aces, Ranger Suarez has emerged as a solid starter, and the inexperienced Bailey Falter and Michael Plassmeyer are penciled into the final two rotation spots at the moment.  Top prospects Andrew Painter and Mick Abel could both enter the Major League picture before 2023 is out, but with the Phillies in clear win-now mode, relying on Falter, Plassmeyer, Painter, and Abel for as many as two rotation spots probably isn’t ideal.  It wouldn’t even be a shock to see the Phils acquire one big-ticket arm to join Nola and Wheeler at the front of the rotation, and then a more moderately-priced hurler like Gonzales as a fifth starter.

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