The Rangers optioned outfielder Willie Calhoun to Triple-A today, as part of the team’s efforts to pare down to 26 players in advance of Monday’s roster reduction deadline. Calhoun’s demotion was seen as something of a surprise, and it appears as though he sees the move as something of a last straw.
“(I’m) gonna go to Triple A and put myself in a position to get traded. I do want to be traded,” Calhoun told The Athletic’s Levi Weaver. “I do want to be traded….I don’t know if I’ll play another game in a Rangers uniform. And I let them know that.”
Once a top-100 prospect, Calhoun was the key piece of the three-player package Texas received from the Dodgers for Yu Darvish at the 2017 trade deadline. It appeared as though Calhoun was on his way to becoming a fixture in the Rangers lineup when he hit .269/.323/.524 with 21 home runs over 337 PA in 2019, but injuries since played a role in his lack of production. Calhoun suffered a broken jaw after being hit in the face by a Julio Urias fastball during Spring Training 2020, and then missed three months of the 2021 season after suffering a forearm fracture when Kris Bubic hit him with another pitch.
Since the start of the 2020 campaign, Calhoun has hit only .223/.288/.339 over 445 plate appearances. That includes a .556 OPS over 53 PA this season, and the Rangers had seen enough to believe that Calhoun was expendable on the active roster. Calhoun’s issues with the organization have clearly been building for a while, as he told Weaver that “I’ve been wanting out for the last year, year and a half. I feel like I need a change of scenery.”
However, Calhoun also wasn’t pleased with how Rangers hitting coaches both old and new (Tim Hyers and assistant coach Seth Conner were hired over the offseason) tried to alter his swing and approach. “I don’t agree with some of the hitting philosophies from the new guys,” Calhoun said. “I don’t process that (information) too well. I’m not 6-4, 230 pounds; I can’t hit pop-up home runs. I don’t have that leverage.”
Rangers manager Chris Woodward told reporters Sunday the team wanted Calhoun “to work a little bit more vertical with his swing,” but Calhoun said this clashed with his ideal approach as the “line-drive, doubles guy” he was during his time in the Dodgers farm system.
There isn’t much leverage on Calhoun’s side to force a trade, as Texas still has control over his services through the 2024 season. There was some speculation whether the Rangers would tender him a contract last winter, the two sides avoided arbitration in Calhoun’s first arb-eligible year by agreeing to a $1.3MM salary for the 2022 season.
When asked about Calhoun’s desire for a trade, Rangers GM Chris Young simply said that “we’re looking to get Willie going. The game is about performance. If he goes out and performs at a high level, there will be an opportunity for him.”
This statement doesn’t rule out the possibility of a trade, of course, as it could be that Calhoun’s next “opportunity” could indeed come with another team. If the Rangers are ready to move on, they would naturally like to get some kind of decent return back, and as Calhoun noted, going on a tear at Triple-A would help him rebuild his stock for any teams interested in acquiring the 27-year-old.