The Yankees have signed outfielder Willie Calhoun to a minor league deal, according to MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand (Twitter link). The contract includes an invitation to New York’s big league Spring Training camp.
Formerly a top-100 prospect, Calhoun looked to be paying off that potential when he hit .269/.323/.524 with 21 homers over 337 plate appearances with the Rangers in 2019. However, Calhoun suffered a frightening injury in Spring Training 2020 when his jaw was broken by an errant Julio Urias fastball, and while the COVID-19 shutdown allowed time for Calhoun to recover in time for the delayed Opening Day, he also missed time that season with a hamstring injury.
Hopes for a fresh start in 2021 were fruitless, as Calhoun spent over three months on the injured list after his forearm was fractured by another pitch. After a slow start in 2022, the Rangers optioned Calhoun to Triple-A, which led to Calhoun openly asking for a trade and criticizing the Texas coaching staff. The Rangers did end up moving Calhoun to the Giants last June in a swap for Steven Duggar, though Calhoun spent much of his time at the Triple-A level with the San Francisco organization. Calhoun appeared in only four MLB games with the Giants before being designated for assignment and outrighted off the 40-man roster in September.
Calhoun elected to become a free agent after the season, giving him the freedom to pursue a fresh start to his career. Only entering his age-28 season, Calhoun is still arbitration-controlled through the 2024 campaign, which adds an extra bonus for the Yankees should the slugger rediscover his form.
For a left-handed hitting power bat, the short porch at Yankee Stadium would seem like a prime spot for Calhoun to get on track, even if he is a self-described “line-drive, doubles guy.” For the cost of a minor league deal, there isn’t any risk for the Yankees in seeing if they can fix Calhoun, even if his .221/.286/.335 slash line over his last 454 Major League PA doesn’t offer much promise.
Aaron Hicks and Oswaldo Cabrera are New York’s top candidates for left field at the moment, with former top prospect Estevan Florial still looking for an extended audition in the majors, and Giancarlo Stanton able to occasionally chip in as an outfielder when he isn’t a designated hitter. The Yankees have been known to be exploring the market for left field help this offseason, but with options running thin, the team could opt to see if Hicks can rebound or if Cabrera can continue to play well into his sophomore season. Calhoun’s minor league deal naturally doesn’t mean the Yankees can’t still add a notable starting outfielder via free agency or the trade market, but it could hint that the Bronx Bombers may let things play out in Spring Training before deciding how hard they should push for a left field upgrade.