In what general manager Brian Cashman termed a "minor move," the Yankees agreed to part with infielder Mitch Hilligoss in exchange for Golson, a 24-year-old who batted .258 with 40 RBIs in 123 games with Triple-A Oklahoma City in 2009.
Golson, who had 27 extra-base hits last year, is a .263 career hitter in the Minors with 48 homers and 265 RBIs in 634 combined games in the Rangers' and Phillies' organizations.
"We traded away some outfield depth in Austin Jackson and Melky Cabrera on the Major League side," Cashman said. "We're trying to get some experience that we can turn to and come in to try to compete for a spot on the 25 [-man roster], like all of these guys.
"He's got [Minor League] options and he's a well above-average runner, a well above-average defender, and [has] a well above-average arm. He has basestealing abilities and can play left, center or right."
Golson, a first-round pick by the Phillies in the 2004 First-Year Player Draft, has made it to the Major Leagues for seven games -- six with Philadelphia in '08 and one with Texas last year. He is 0-for-7 with two runs scored in the big leagues.
Prior to the 2009 season, Baseball America magazine named Golson "Best Athlete," "Fastest Baserunner" and "Best Outfield Arm" in the Texas organization.
Yankees manager Joe Girardi compared Golson's skill sets to that of Brett Gardner, who is tentatively being penciled in as one of New York's starting outfielders in 2010.
"He's kind of what Gardy was," Girardi said. "We expect Gardy to have more playing time, and he gives us another guy like Gardy. We feel there's a need."
The Yankees were already planning on heading to Spring Training with Jamie Hoffmann, a Rule 5 selection from the Dodgers by way of the Nationals, competing for a reserve outfield job and the final spot on the bench.
They also are looking to pursue a right-handed-hitting outfielder before breaking camp, and Golson could project as organizational depth at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. The acquisition of Golson puts the Yankees' 40-man roster at 39.
Hilligoss, 24, had a .275 average over four professional seasons in the Yankees' organization. A sixth-round pick in 2006 from Purdue, Hilligoss batted .233 with 14 RBIs in 51 games last season for Class A Tampa, missing time with a broken right hand. He had a South Atlantic League record 38-game hitting streak from April 18-June 1, 2007.
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.