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Chance at payday sweetens Derby pot for Gallo

@Sullivan_Ranger
March 14, 2019

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Outfielder Joey Gallo was hanging out with Delino DeShields on Wednesday night when he saw on social media that the winner of this year's Home Run Derby will get a $1 million bonus. “D, you see that?” Gallo asked skeptically.

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Outfielder Joey Gallo was hanging out with Delino DeShields on Wednesday night when he saw on social media that the winner of this year's Home Run Derby will get a $1 million bonus.

“D, you see that?” Gallo asked skeptically.

DeShields confirmed it is real.

“That’s good,” Gallo said. “I am going to have to do it now.”

Major League Baseball will love hearing that. Anybody who has watched Gallo play the past two seasons wants to see the 25-year-old slugging prodigy in the Home Run Derby. Gallo has 81 home runs over the past two seasons, the fourth most in the Major Leagues, with the longest one projected at 490 feet by Statcast.

"I think it will be fun to do it," he said. "Hopefully, I will be healthy and able to do it this year.”

Gallo has yet to make the American League All-Star team, but he was asked to take part in the Derby in each of the past two seasons and declined both times. He was hitting .194 at the All-Star break in 2017 and .187 last season. He didn’t want to be viewed as a freak sideshow.

“I know if I went, it would be, ‘This guy is the biggest joke in baseball,'" Gallo said. “'He is hitting .180 and he’s in the Home Run Derby?’ That all falls under [the thought that] I wasn’t playing well enough to be there in the first place.

“There wasn’t anything positive that could come out of it. Yeah, if I won that’s great, but I didn’t want it to come at the cost of hurting my season or not being ready for the second half, be tired. We also went to Cabo last year. I’d rather go to Cabo than take 1,000 swings.”

But the $1 million bonus can be a powerful incentive for someone who was one of 11 players who hit at least 37 home runs last season. Gallo, who is not yet eligible for arbitration, is making $600,000 this season. The other 10 players have an average salary of just over $17 million. After Gallo, the player making the least is Jose Ramirez of the Indians, at $4.1 million.

“My competition is pretty rich,” he said. “Good for them. I just haven’t gotten to the point where I’m getting paid yet. I’ve seen people who are upset you are going to pay a guy a million dollars to be in the Home Run Derby and they are already millionaires. But not all of us are making that money, so it would actually be beneficial to some guys.”

The Rangers just don’t want Gallo to get hurt, possibly pulling a rib cage muscle by overswinging. There is also a concern that a younger player can get out of whack at the plate by competing in the Home Run Derby. That’s why Josh Hamilton stopped doing it after his awe-inspiring display at Yankee Stadium in 2008.

“There’s always a little bit of concern when guys are doing something outside of playing the 162 for us,” general manager Jon Daniels said. “'Concern' isn’t even the right word. We’re just overprotective about our guys. It’s probably not a rational concern. I know he’d go out there and put on a show.”

Gallo has taken part in a Home Run Derby just once before, at the 2013 South Atlantic League All-Star Game in Lakewood, N.J.

He won.

“That was a pretty easy one,” he said. “If I do this one, it will be a little different. I don’t necessarily have to be on the All-Star team, just feeling that I’m in a better place than last season.”

T.R. Sullivan has covered the Rangers since 1989, and for MLB.com since 2006. Follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger and listen to his podcast.