SF Giants-Texas Rangers Trade Fit: Willie Calhoun
The only Rangers player on the list that Giants brass has any familiarity with, Willie Calhoun was a top prospect in the Dodgers system when both Farhan Zaidi and Gabe Kapler were in Los Angeles. He became the centerpiece of the eventual Yu Darvish trade. In the minors, Calhoun was a bat-first second baseman, but since joining Texas, has played left field and DH’d exclusively.
The 26-year old from Vallejo, California, has flashed the kind of all-around bat Zaidi loves. In 2019, Calhoun seemed to be reaching his potential. He played just 83 games, but blasted 21 home runs and hit .269/.323/.524. As a left-handed hitter, Calhoun could become a platoon option with Darin Ruf in left field or Donovan Solano at second base.
With that said, the Giants would have to be betting on him finding that 2019 form again. While he’s had small MLB stints in 2017, 2018, and 2020 due to roster depth or injury, he’s never produced close to even a league-average level in those years. This season was particularly bad. In 108 plate appearances, Calhoun posted just a .491 OPS.
There were some reasons to maintain hope this past season. His strikeout-rate, hard-hit rate, and average exit-velocity all stayed relatively close to his output in 2019, and stats heavy on regression, like BABIP and HR/FB%, both plummeted to career lows at .214 and 2.9% respectively. His career BABIP is .256 and career HR/FB% is 13.4%, much more in line with league averages.
Not eligible for arbitration until after next season, Calhoun still has plenty of team control left. The Rangers might be tentative to sell low, but if the Giants offered up a solid 40 future-value prospect or, perhaps tried to package him in a Lynn, Gibson, or other deal, they might be willing to include him as a sweetener. Given his youth, top-prospect pedigree, and ability to avoid strikeouts, he seems like an obvious player to bet on bouncing back.