DUNEDIN, Fla. – Late in January, as the Blue Jays’ pursuit of Freddy Galvis picked up, Charlie Montoyo reached out with a recruiting call.
By this point in the winter, the Blue Jays had already released Troy Tulowitzki, but they weren’t quite ready to make Lourdes Gurriel Jr. the everyday shortstop. Galvis, a 29-year-old free agent with an above-average glove, was their target. Not only could he field, but as the active leader in consecutive games played, he offered something Tulowitzki couldn’t: durability.
As Montoyo spoke with Galvis, he tried to entice him to sign with the Blue Jays, yet he also had to make something clear. As impressed as the Blue Jays were by his streak of 325 consecutive games, it would eventually have to end in Toronto.
“We’re not breaking any records,” Montoyo told Galvis. “And believe me, I appreciate that. As a guy who used to play, I appreciate that. I can’t imagine playing 162 and making nine errors. That’s unbelievable.”
On the other end of the line, Galvis considered his options. Nearly half the teams in baseball had checked in with him at some point, so he’d have choices even if he declined the Blue Jays’ offer. But at the same time, nobody’s breaking Cal Ripken Jr.’s record of 2,632 consecutive games any time soon, and Montoyo’s message resonated with Galvis.
“The biggest thing for me was they spoke the truth,” Galvis said. “They said what it’s going to be. I’ll put it this way: he’s like a one-faced manager. He’s going to speak the truth. I’m on the same page with that and I appreciate him letting me know.”
Before long they had both a deal – one year and $5 million with a 2020 club option – and an understanding that Galvis would play often, but not quite every day. At some point soon, Galvis will miss his first game since October of 2016, but in the meantime his streak offers insight into Galvis and commands respect from those around him.
“It says a ton,” said prospect Bo Bichette. “I’m 20 and I still struggle to be out there sometimes. It’s pretty incredible.”
“It’s terrific,” added Clayton Richard, a teammate of Galvis’ in San Diego and now Toronto. “He’s so steady, so consistent and good. You know he’s going to be there. It’s great to have a guy like him in the clubhouse and on the field.”
When Galvis first arrived at the MLB level in 2012, there were no illusions about his role. With Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins in place at second and short for the Phillies, Galvis was around as a reserve. He spent most of his nights on the bench from 2012-14, but he knew he wanted more.
“Ever since I was a little kid, I’ve always played every single game my team played,” Galvis said. “I felt kind of weird going to the big-leagues and not playing a lot.”
By 2015, that changed. The Phillies were rebuilding and Galvis got his shot as the team’s primary shortstop. He hasn’t looked back since, with 151 games played in 2015, 158 in 2016 and 162 each of the last two seasons. Along the way he has generated plenty of defensive value (3.2 dWAR) with below-average offensive production (82 OPS+) despite occasional power (20 homers in 2016).
Galvis watches what he eats in the hopes of staying healthy, but most important of all might be the rest he gets. He sleeps a lot during the season – from 12 or 1 a.m. until about 11 a.m. – and credits his wife for making that possible. When their two daughters, aged one and four, need attention, she’s typically the one who takes care of them.
“The biggest thing for me is sleep. I try to sleep a lot. I try to rest, and that’s something that my wife helps me do,” Galvis said. “That’s like a family team right there.”
The system works, as Manny Machado, Nick Markakis and Eric Hosmer are the only players to appear in more games over the last four seasons. Still, Galvis will rest some day soon at which point Freddie Freeman of the Braves will overtake him as the active consecutive games played leader. Until then, he plans on doing what he has always done.
“I’m just here to play baseball,” Galvis said. “If you need me to sit one day I’m going to sit. For me I’d like to play 162 again, but I know what the manager wants and what the organization wants, so for me it’s no problem to go to the bench one or two days if they need it. I’m good with that, too.”