Joey Gallo played 51 games in left field last year with Minnesota and 51 games at first base for the Twins, and the two-time Gold Glove winner (2020/21 — when he was with the Texas Rangers, playing mostly in right field) told reporters he’s going to play some left and some first base again in 2024.
Gallo, 30, signed what is reportedly a 1-year/$5M with Washington last month and the nine-year veteran talked to Nationals’ manager Davey Martinez once he was part of the team about what his role will be in D.C.
“The plan is for me to play some outfield, also play a little first base, and kind of just help out where I need to help out,” Gallo shared.
He’s played more games in left than in any other spot at this point in his career, though the Twins also put him in center (11 games) and right (10 G) last season.
His versatility, Gallo said, is an important asset, and something he has worked on diligently over the course of his career.
“I do take pride in being able to move around the field whenever,” he said, “... and play any position, essentially.
“That’s kind of what I told [Martinez], is, ‘Hey, wherever you need me to play, I can play. That’s not a big deal, I’m pretty versatile.’”
“I like being able to bring value with my range and my arm out there,” Gallo added. “I like to just be athletic. But I also love third base as well. I came up as a third baseman, I think a lot of people forget, I never played outfield until 2019*, I never was an outfielder my whole life, I played infield. So I’m very comfortable at first base. I thought I was able to do pretty well over there this [past] year with Minnesota. But for me I think having a big first baseman that can pick, make plays for you, where you don’t have to worry about maybe I throw a ball bad — I want to have a first baseman there I can trust, so that’s what I try to bring at first base for our guys.
“I work really hard at being able to do both at a high level.”
[ed. note - “ * = Not, technically, true. He played the outfield in the majors in 2015, ‘17, and ‘18 as well, but he did play mostly in the infield before 2018.”]
When it came time to find a club this winter, Gallo said he reached out to other major leaguers to get some feedback on the Nationals and playing in the nation’s capital.
“I haven’t heard one bad thing,” Gallo said, and he came away from his talks with other big leaguers and the conversation with Martinez with a positive impression of the organization.
“I’ve heard nothing but great things about [Davey] too,” he said. “Players love him — seems like the media loves him and everybody that meets him loves him, so very excited to get around him and kind of see what kind of energy he has. I’ve seen him get thrown out a few times — pretty entertaining — so I always love that.”
Joining a young, rebooting ballclub, as he tries to reestablish his value on the one-year deal the Nats gave him, Gallo said he thinks he has plenty to offer and pass on to his new teammates.
“For me, I’ve always loved having young guys around, because I like them to watch me and how I run, how I play. Maybe not necessarily hit or whatever, but just the way you go about your business,” he said, with a self-deprecating nod to his .197 career average (and .177 AVG last season).
“I had Adrian Beltre,” when he was coming up, Gallo said, “... who just got into the Hall of Fame, congrats to that. Prince Fielder. Josh Hamilton. I had some very good leaders and I learned a lot from those guys and I feel like I can translate that into helping these young guys that I’m going to have now.
“I love playing with young guys, they’re always energetic and they just want to play and have fun so for me I just want to bring that to the table.”
Some of the naïveté young players bring to the table can be valuable as well, Gallo said.
“When you look at the roster and just from playing against them a little bit last year, a lot of young, very athletic talent and it’s always fun to be around guys like that,” he reiterated.
“So I’m just excited to kind of be around a young group of guys with energy [who] almost don’t really know what’s in front of them yet,” Gallo added, “and guys like that where they bring that energy every day in the clubhouse.”