TODAY: Morosi reports that the Yankees have granted Calhoun his release, allowing him to return to the free agent market where he can search for a new minor league deal.
June 1: Veteran outfielder Kole Calhoun has exercised an out clause in his minor league deal with the Yankees, reports Jon Morosi of MLB.com. The team will have 72 hours to add him to the roster or else grant him his release, Morosi adds. The 35-year-old Calhoun has had a strong start in Scranton, slashing .293/.402/.561 with four homers, six doubles and a pair of triples in 97 trips to the plate thus far.
Calhoun, who’s spent the bulk of his career with the Angels, was a steadily productive right fielder with generally strong defense from 2013-20, batting a combined .249/.324/.431 with 156 home runs in 4183 plate appearances and winning a Gold Glove (2015) during that time. He’s twice topped 25 home runs in a season — 26 in 2015 and 33 in 2019’s juiced-ball season — and has otherwise been good for 15 to 20 homers per year. His pull-side power would seem like a good fit for Yankee Stadium if they opt to bring the veteran up to the big league roster.
Yankees outfielders have been woefully unproductive as a whole in 2023, batting a combined .218/.284/.417 — good for a 91 wRC+ that ties them for 23rd in Major League Baseball. That production has come almost entirely from Aaron Judge (.262/.385/.627) and the again-injured Harrison Bader (.261/.290/.511).
With Giancarlo Stanton limited to 21 plate appearances so far, the Yankees have leaned on a rotating door of utility players, journeymen and unproductive veterans as they look to round out their outfield. None of Isiah Kiner-Falefa, Aaron Hicks, Franchy Cordero, Willie Calhoun or Oswaldo Cabrera has been productive, however, and more recent additions like Jake Bauers and Greg Allen don’t have the big league track record to inspire much optimism.
The Yankees optioned Cordero and Cabrera to Triple-A today, likely setting the stage for the return of Stanton (as well as Josh Donaldson and reliever Tommy Kahnle). That’ll add one outfield-capable bat back to the lineup, but given the dismal production from the bulk of the Yankees’ corner options, there’s certainly a case for giving the elder Calhoun a look rather than letting him return to free agency.