Analysis: DFA'd Sunday, Willie Calhoun Should Be on Mariners' Radar

Ahead of their rubber match with the Mariners on Sunday, the Rangers designated left fielder Willie Calhoun for assignment. 

This was bound to happen sooner or later. Calhoun, who was acquired in the 2017 trade that sent right-handed pitcher Yu Darvish to the Dodgers, had formally requested a trade back in April. Then, after slashing a dreadful .136/.283/.273 in 18 games, he was demoted to Triple-A Round Rock on May 2. 

Despite his struggles, however, Calhoun is an interesting player sure to generate plenty of interest now that he’s available. The 27-year old was a highly touted prospect coming up in Los Angeles’ farm system and, while his overall career numbers have been underwhelming at best, his time in the big leagues has not come without some positives. 

Calhoun is a high contact hitter (85.2 percent) who’s running career strikeout and walk rates of 15.2 and seven percent, respectively. Through 927 plate appearances at the major league level, he has hit .241/.300/.407 with 32 home runs, 103 RBI and a wRC+ of 85. 

But while those numbers aren’t awful, his career fWAR currently sits at a jarring -2.2, which is mostly attributed to his well below-average defense. Calhoun has exclusively played left field as a major leaguer and he’s struggled mightily out there, carrying an abysmal -14 defensive runs saved to his credit. 

Scroll to Continue

Even his best season, 2019, was massively dragged down by his poor play in the field. He was legitimately good at the plate, posting career highs in batting average (.269), on-base percentage (.323), slugging percentage (.524), wRC+ (110), barrel rate (5.4 percent), home runs (21) and RBI (48) in 83 games, but he finished with an fWAR of just 0.2. 

Essentially, whichever team lands Calhoun in the coming days will likely be best served deploying him as a designated hitter only. That could make him a non-fit with the Mariners, who will need the DH spot for the likes of Kyle Lewis (knee/concussion) and eventually Mitch Haniger (ankle), but it would also behoove them to try and upgrade their bench by any means necessary. 

The three non-catchers Seattle is currently rotating off its bench—Abraham Toro, Dylan Moore and Sam Haggerty—have combined for a .166 batting average this season. Plus, Mike Ford, who’s taken the majority of DH reps with Lewis out of the lineup, was DFA’d on Saturday to make room on the team’s 26-man roster for left-handed reliever Ryan Borucki. 

There is also no guarantee that Lewis, who struggled to play consistently during his rehab assignment with Triple-A Tacoma, will be able to take on a full week’s worth of at-bats when he returns from concussion protocol. Furthermore, with Borucki in and Ford out, the Mariners now have a nine-man bullpen, which is unlikely to last too long.  

So if general manager Jerry Dipoto and his staff have interest in Calhoun, they have a spot to give him. And they should, considering what little offensive production they’ve gotten from their bench in the early going.

This isn’t to say Calhoun is a likely fix to Seattle’s depth issues—he’s not—but it’s worth a shot to potentially raise the offense’s floor, especially with little-to-no other options out on the trade market.