It has been a very quiet offseason for the Nationals to this point, as they had only added UTL Nick Senzel and RHP Dylan Floro to cheap, one year deals. Well, they added yet another cheap, one year deal again on Wednesday afternoon, agreeing to terms with 1B/OF Joey Gallo on a deal that will pay him $5M for the 2024 season.
The Nationals, Davey Martinez and Mike Rizzo have all expressed their desire to add a Left Handed power bat this offseason, preferably in the outfield. Gallo fits that mold. He does not fit the mold of a protoptypical Nationals' hitter, but more on that later.
Gallo, 30, is coming off yet another season where his overall offensive production left a lot to be desired. Gallo slashed .171/.301/.440 in 111 games in his stint with the Minnesota Twins last year, but did manage to hit 21 home runs in the process. It is undoubtedly the .440 slugging percentage and the 21 home runs the Nationals are interested in - a stark contrast from the defense first option they had last season with Dominic Smith.
Gallo made his debut back in 2015 with the Texas Rangers. He really had his breakout season in 2019 where he hit .253/.389/.598 for a .986 OPS and 22 Home Runs in 70 games before injury, earning an All Star selection in the process. Unfortunately for Gallo, that season is the outlier in his career as he has never hit above .200 in a full season of play since then.
That does not mean Gallo is not valuable, it just means we have to recognize where he value is and take the good with the bad. Gallo ranks in the 90th percentile or above in Average Exit Velocity, Barrel%, Hard-Hit% and BB%. Gallo will hit home runs (a long way) and likely lead the team in slugging, but he will strikeout (a lot) and will inevitably endure some rough games with the occasional golden sombrero (4 strikeouts in a game). He does fill a void for the Nationals, as Gallo will play Left Field, in a platoon with Stone Garrett, and First Base/DH, in a platoon with Joey Meneses. Gallo will likely get a lot of playing time regardless as the Nationals hope to boost his trade value, so it is helpful that Gallo can fill spots all throughout the lineup.
For the Nationals, there is little to no risk. There really is not such a thing as a bad one year deal, especially when that deal is for just $5M. The last one year, $5M contract the Nationals gave out was to Jeimer Candelario, who turned out pretty well for the team. I don't expect Gallo's situation to quite replicate that result, but if the Nationals are able to flip him at the deadline, then it is an absolute win. And if they are not able to flip him, then no real harm done. The Nats should be filling their roster with these kinds of moves.
As far as what we can expect from Gallo this season, I would say more of the same. We know who Joey Gallo is at this point. If he hits over .200 then that is a plus, but his real contributions come from extra base hits and home runs and the Nationals (and Darnell Coles) should not have him deviate too far away from that plan just because they prefer putting the ball in play with weak contact as opposed to the occasional strikeout. The entire Nationals lineup could use a little more selectiveness at the plate, finding their true pitch to hit instead of chasing pitches for the sake of putting the ball in play. Find pitches to drive - Gallo is good at that much.
Undoubtedly, the Nationals think they can get more out of Gallo, so they will try to make him more of a contact hitter. Hopefully it does not sacrifice his power in the process, but all things considered this is a good move. Also, I called this.
We are still waiting to see what the corresponding move will be to clear space on the 40 man roster, but hopefully the Nationals are not finished adding to their team, especially when there are players like Rhys Hoskins, who can also be had for a one year deal albeit more expensive than $5M, still available. As of now, here is the Nationals' projected Opening Day lineup:
1. CJ Abrams - SS
2. Lane Thomas - RF
3. Joey Gallo - LF/DH
4. Joey Meneses - 1B
5. Keibert Ruiz - C
6. Stone Garrett - LF/DH
7. Luis Garcia - 2B
8. Nick Senzel - 3B
9. Victor Robles - CF