Yankees add veteran outfielder on MiLB deal

kole calhoun, yankees
Aug 1, 2022; Arlington, Texas, USA; Texas Rangers right fielder Kole Calhoun (56) in action during the game between the Texas Rangers and the Baltimore Orioles at Globe Life Field. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The Yankees losing Giancarlo Stanton and having a delay on Josh Donaldson’s return following his hamstring injury has further complicated the Yankees’ position player depth. With the bottom of the lineup sputtering and a potential DFA of Willie Calhoun impending to make room for Harrison Bader, the Yankees looked to shore up their outfield depth by signing Kole Calhoun to a Minor League contract. Looking to get surplus value out of Kole Calhoun following two down years with the Diamondbacks and Rangers, the Yankees hope they can unlock something more in the 35-year-old outfielder’s game.

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Yankees continue to search for the next Matt Carpenter:

One of the biggest subtractions for the Yankees over the offseason was Matt Carpenter, and while he was expected to regress, he was certainly a huge part of the 2022 offense when they were clicking. Kole Calhoun is definitely not going to post a wRC+ above 200 with the Yankees, but could he potentially unlock something with his swing path? Well, with a 37.6% flyball rate and 24.3% line drive rate, Calhoun still can elevate the ball which is vital for taking advantage of the short porch, but his inflated K% in 2022 made it hard to maintain decent on-base or batting average numbers.

It doesn’t help those slow left-handed hitters were killed by the shift in the past, as reflected by his .263 BABIP in 2022. Calhoun also became uncharacteristically aggressive, chasing at nearly a third of pitches out of the strike zone. He’s typically a much more patient hitter, and this resulted in a career-high 32.1% K%. His approach change in 2022 did not work, but the one encouraging sign from that season was his quality of contact.

  • 90.8 Average Exit Velocity (82nd Percentile)
  • 48.2% Hard Hit% (89th Percentile)
  • 9.8% Barrel% (66th Percentile)

If the Yankees can figure out a way to get the plate discipline back to his pre-2022 days, there could be real offensive potential. As with all project bats signed on MiLB deals, their median outcome is being a below-average hitter. “If” a player gets something to click is still a massive variable, but these are the types of flyers the Yankees like to take. A veteran left-handed bat with power that can potentially take advantage of the short porch was exactly what they got with Matt Carpenter, and that’s what the Yankees seek to find in Calhoun.

matt carpenter, yankees
Jul 2, 2022; Cleveland, Ohio, USA; New York Yankees first baseman Matt Carpenter (24) rounds the bases after hitting a home run during the sixth inning against the Cleveland Guardians at Progressive Field. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

The Yankees have not gotten much production from the depth of their outfield as well, with Willie Calhoun, Isiah Kiner-Falefa, and Aaron Hicks combining for a wretched -12 wRC+ and -1.1 fWAR. If the Yankees get anything out of Kole Calhoun, they’ll be extremely happy about the acquisition. Very similar to how Franchy Cordero has been a welcomed addition with some big home runs early in the season, Calhoun has the same ability to hit HRs if need be. He’s also a former gold-glove winner, and while he isn’t the defender he once was, he has an excellent throwing arm and can hold down LF and RF if need be.

Aaron Hicks and Oswaldo Cabrera are really the only main options on the roster with LF experience at the Major League level, and with the aforementioned struggles Hicks has had this season, is it really far-fetched to imagine that the Yankees could DFA him or cut his playing time down even more for a bat they feel can add more upside to the roster? It’s a risk, sure, but it feels like Hicks’ time in New York is coming to an end relatively soon.

The signing of Calhoun, at the very least, indicates that they don’t feel confident in their OF depth right now, but if their active options on the roster continue to sputter, perhaps they’ll turn to Kole Calhoun.