NEW YORK – Desperate for a powerful, left-handed bat to park balls in the short porch at Yankee Stadium, the New York Yankees got two of them.
Hours after announcing their trade to acquire All-Star slugger Joey Gallo from Texas, the playoff-chasing Yankees worked out a deal for longtime Chicago Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo on Thursday.
The swaps came on a day the Yankees lost at Tampa Bay 14-0, leaving them far behind Boston in the AL East and fourth in the chase for two wild-card spots.
Team officials, including owner Hal Steinbrenner and general manager Brian Cashman, have been holding meetings in nearby Tampa, Florida.
“Part of the reason I’m here is because Hal always goes for it, and so does Brian,” Yankees ace Gerrit Cole said after the lopsided loss. “Continue to push chips in. I trust that they’re going to do what’s best for the organization, what’s best to win. I trust they’re going to try and make us better one way or another, and they did.”
The Yankees made the moves ahead of the Major League Baseball trade deadline at 4 p.m. Friday. And the aggressive action left no doubt the direction they would take.
They are big-time buyers, for sure.
New York acquired Gallo and left-hander Joely Rodriguez from the Rangers for minor league right-hander Glenn Otto and infielders Ezequiel Duran, Trevor Hauver and Josh Smith.
The Yankees got Rizzo for two minor leaguers, right-hander Alexander Vizcaíno and outfielder Kevin Alcántara. Chicago will pay the Yankees $5,652,403 as part of the trade, covering all but $202,435 of the remainder of Rizzo’s $16.5 million salary, which comes to a prorated share of the $570,500 minimum.
The 27-year-old Gallo is hitting .223 with 25 homers, 55 RBIs and a major league-leading 74 walks. While he was a Gold Glove-winning right fielder for Texas, Boone envisions Gallo playing a lot in left for the Yankees, who have Aaron Judge as their regular right fielder.
Rizzo is batting .248 with 14 home runs and 40 RBIs. The 31-year-old had been a fixture at Wrigley Field for a decade, and helped the Cubs break their long World Series drought with a championship in 2016.
Popular in the clubhouse and with Cubs fans, Rizzo didn’t play in a 7-4 loss at home to Cincinnati on Thursday. The three-time All-Star and four-time Gold Glove winner can become a free agent after the season.
Both Rizzo and Gallo are both left-handed hitters, which the Yankees had seeking to add to a lineup that was predominantly right-handed.
With switch-hitting center fielder Aaron Hicks hurt, second baseman Rougned Odor and outfielder Brett Gardner have been the only left-handed hitters to see substantial playing time.
Gallo, a two-time All-Star, is a career .211 hitter in seven seasons, but launches a lot of longballs and walks a bunch. He hit 41 home runs in 2017 and 40 in 2018.
“Sign me up for the guy that’s on base almost 40% of the time and has power and provides the kind of potential balance for our lineup,” Aaron Boone said of Gallo. “And on top of it, he’s a two-way player. This is a guy that really defends, can run and do all those things. It’s hard to argue that we’re not a lot better team adding Joey Gallo to us.”
Rizzo began his career with San Diego in 2011, then went to the Cubs in 2012. He is a career .269 hitter with 243 home runs — sixth on the Cubs’ all-time list — and 793 RBIs.
The Yankees had been using a mix at first base this year with DJ LeMahieu playing there a lot. Luke Voit led the majors in home runs last year during the pandemic-shortened season, but the big first baseman has been injured for much of the year.
Gallo is owed $2.2 million from his $6.2 million salary. He is eligible for arbitration next winter and can became a free agent after the 2022 season.
The Yankees will receive $2,722,865 from the Rangers plus another $500,000 in January that is conditioned on Rodriguez’s 2022 option buyout being paid.
Jon Daniels, Texas’ president of baseball operations, said it was emotional to trade away a homegrown star.
“Obviously if we’re in a different competitive spot, we weren’t in a rebuilding situation, which we are and have acknowledged and talked about, this could look a little different,” he said.
Rodríguez, 29, is 1-3 with one save and a 5.93 ERA in 31 relief appearances this season, holding left-handed batters to a .176 average. He is 2-5 with a 5.05 ERA in 81 relief appearances over four seasons with Philadelphia (2016-17) and Texas (2020-21), and he was 3-7 with a 1.85 ERA over 90 relief appearances in 2018-19 for the Chunichi Dragons of Japan’s Central League.
The Cubs have been in a prolonged slide that dropped them below .500, prompting speculation they would trade some of their stars.
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