Calhoun optioned to Triple-A, surprised by move

July 16th, 2019

ARLINGTON -- Outfielder Willie Calhoun was optioned to Triple-A Nashville to make room for Hunter Pence, who was activated off the injured list on Tuesday. Calhoun was not happy with the decision.

“I was just as surprised as everybody else," Calhoun said. "They just said, ‘Go to Triple-A and do your thing,' I guess. I mean, I've helped the team win, so I don't know what else I could have done.”

Calhoun has played in 26 games for the Rangers and hit .277/.313/.489 with five home runs and 13 RBIs. This is the fourth time he has been optioned in the past two years.

“This is one we have been talking about for a week,” manager Chris Woodward said. “It was a tough one. It kept us up. Willie has done everything to stay here. He has been really good for us. I know he has every right to say, you are giving up on me or punishing me. He is not wrong to assume that because he is going to Triple-A.”

The reality is Calhoun is going to Nashville because the Rangers have seven outfielders and can’t keep them all unless they trade one of them. That’s something general manager Jon Daniels could explore before the July 31 Trade Deadline.

“Maybe at some point,” Daniels said. “You look at our roster construction, we are very heavy on the left side and our corner outfield spots. We said that last year, this offseason and during this season. Everybody has a strong case for being here, including Willie.”

Here’s who is blocking Calhoun and what can be done:

Hunter Pence
Pence caused the outfield logjam by playing far better than everybody expected and being a huge asset in the clubhouse. He is also a free agent after this season.

He fits on a team that is trying win now. He could also be a trade asset in the next two weeks if the Rangers are more focused on the long-term future.

“Hunter has been unbelievable on and off the field,” Daniels said. “There is huge value in that. It’s uncomfortable talking about anybody but that’s what we are assigned to do … look at the big picture. Try to see what’s good for the club now and in the future.”

Nomar Mazara
Mazara is on pace for 20 home runs and 87 RBIs. His slash line of .261/.314/.439 is close to his career numbers of .259/.319/.428.

He is in his fourth season and the Rangers may be confronted with a hard decision. Is this what the Rangers can expect from Mazara or will it get better going forward?

The Rangers have made it clear they want more and expect more out of Mazara than what they are getting.

“We want him to be better and he understands that,” Woodward said. “He understands we’re all here to help him be a great player. Where his numbers are and have been, we want more out of him. There has been growth, but I want to see more. We all want to see more, he wants to see more.”

Said Daniels: “His production has been solid but it has been below his potential. I feel pretty strongly that he can reach it.”

Delino DeShields
Woodward said the decision came down to DeShields vs. Calhoun. DeShields won because he is hitting .326 with a .377 on-base percentage in his past 31 games, he is a right-handed bat and his superior speed is a unique weapon the Rangers need.

Shin-Soo Choo
He is playing better than ever, which could be attractive to other American League teams looking for offensive help. But he is also signed for next year at $21 million, which remains an obstacle for a trade, especially for a team that sees him as a designated hitter.

Like Pence, the Rangers have a high regard for what Choo means to this team.

Joey Gallo
He is not going anywhere, He played first base in the past but that ship has sailed.

Danny Santana
He has also complicated the Rangers outfield situation by playing better than expected. He can play both infield and outfield, and is a switch-hitter. His versatility is invaluable. He is not going anywhere.

Ronald Guzman
Guzman has not hit as well as expected. He was at .201/.286/.413 going into Tuesday’s game. If the Rangers sent him down, they could platoon Logan Forsythe and Santana at first base.

But that would still leave six outfielders with Calhoun and DeShields on the bench behind Choo, Gallo, Mazara and Pence.

“Guzie was in the conversation,” Woodward said. “He had to be because he hasn’t been as good offensively as those other guys. But, if you send out Guzie, you are still stuck with the problem of seven outfielders. You are going to get less of Willie if he is not playing, you are going to get less of Delino if he is not playing. I didn’t think it was right keeping all those guys.”


Rangers beat:
• Pence is the Rangers' nominee for the 2019 Heart and Hustle Award. He was nominated by the Players Association and the overall winner will be announced on Nov. 7. This is the fifth time Pence has been nominated for the award in his career.

• The Rangers have called up right-hander Taylor Guerrieri from Triple-A Nashville. He was 1-3 with a 3.47 ERA and a 1.40 WHIP in 23 games for the Sounds. He averaged 8.2 hits, 3.7 walks and 9.7 strikeouts per nine innings and gives the Rangers a right-handed long reliever.

• Guerrieri replaces left-hander Jesse Biddle, who was placed on the injured list with shoulder fatigue.