Baseball

AL West Notes: Calhoun, Yordan, Murphy

Rangers outfielder Willie Calhoun missed nearly three months of the 2021 season after suffering a broken arm upon being hit by a pitch, but he’s expected to return to the lineup this week, per Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News. The club has 18 games left to get a look at Calhoun before determining whether to tender him a contract in arbitration this winter, and manager Chris Woodward offered no certainties when discussing Calhoun’s future. “Unfortunately, he hasn’t played enough for us to really evaluate him,” Woodward said (via Grant). “So, we may have to make a really tough decision one way or the other. We’re going to have to kind of go out on a limb.”

Calhoun, 27 this offseason, was the headlining prospect the Rangers received from the Dodgers in 2017’s Yu Darvish trade. He’s yet to establish himself as a consistently productive hitter, however, and was batting a rather pedestrian .254/.323/.385 in 226 plate appearances before heading to the injured list. Calhoun’s lack of playing time and career .248/.304/.418 batting line to date will limit his arbitration price. That, coupled with the fact that he has a minor league option remaining in 2022, could be a saving grace. So long as the Rangers don’t mind carrying him on the 40-man roster, there’s little downside in tendering him a contract, but Woodward’s mention of a “tough decision” appears to indicate that there’s at least some debate on how to proceed.

Some more notes from the division…

  • Astros slugger Yordan Alvarez is getting increased defensive reps in at first base and could begin seeing time there in games, manager Dusty Baker told reporters this week (link via Chandler Rome of the Houston Chronicle). Alvarez, 24, played some first base in the minors but hasn’t appeared there in the Majors yet. He’s only played 317 innings of defense since debuting in 2019 — all of which have come in left field. The ’Stros have Yuli Gurriel as their everyday option at first base, and his $8MM club option for the 2022 season is a no-brainer to be exercised after a terrific 2021 season. Still, getting Alvarez some work at first would provide a safety net should Gurriel need to miss time and would also give the Astros an option on days where they hope to rest Gurriel, who’ll turn 38 next June. Looking beyond the ’22 campaign, at which point Gurriel will be a free agent, it’d obviously be a bonus if the ’Stros felt comfortable playing Alvarez at first base on at least a part-time basis. Given the knee troubles he’s already had in his career, Alvarez might not be a full-time option either in left field or at first base for Houston, but the more ways they have to keep him and his outstanding career .293/.375/.584 batting line (906 plate appearances) in the lineup, the better.
  • Mariners catcher Tom Murphy chatted with Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times about his rebound from an awful start to the year — a stretch he called “the lowest point in my baseball career.” Murphy’s roster spot looked to be in jeopardy at one point, but he’s rebounded since mid-May, hitting .236/.346/.408 with eight homers in his past 208 trips to the plate. His season line still rests at an ugly .205/.304/.373, but that’s weighed down by those first six weeks. Murphy didn’t play in 2020 after fouling a ball into his foot and suffering a fracture during Mariners “Summer Camp,” so the slow start after such a long layoff is somewhat understandable. He’ll be arbitration-eligible for a second time this winter, giving the Mariners three potential options behind the dish alongside Luis Torrens and prospect Cal Raleigh. Had Murphy’s struggles continued, he’d have been a clear non-tender candidate. That possibility can’t be expressly ruled out even with the rebound, but the forthcoming raise on his modest $875K salary figures to be relatively minimal. Murphy hit .273/.324/.535 in 281 plate appearances with the Mariners back in 2019.

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