Nationals outfielder Michael A. Taylor has cleared waivers and elected free agency rather than accepting an outright assignment to Triple-A Fresno, per a team announcement. The 29-year-old was arbitration-eligible this winter but stood as a clear non-tender candidate on the heels of a rough 2020 season. The decision to pass him through waivers effectively amounts to an early non-tender.
Taylor made $3.25MM with the Nationals in 2020 — about $1.17MM prorated — but scuffled to a .196/.253/.424 batting line in 99 plate appearances. It was the third straight below-average season at the plate for Taylor, who peaked with a .271/.320/.486 slash and 19 dingers back in 2017 but hasn’t produced since. The Nats sent Taylor to the minors for much of the 2019 season, but with a projected raise into the mid-$3MM range and a three-year slash line of .225/.284/.370, the club will instead move on.
While Taylor has struggled at the plate in recent years, he still has some pop in his bat and the ability to play any of three outfield spots well. Strikeouts have long been an issue and likely will continue to be, but Taylor has a .175 ISO (slugging minus batting average) since 2017 and boasts career marks of +23 Defensive Runs Saved and +10.6 Ultimate Zone Rating (4.8 UZR/150) in nearly 3300 center field innings.
Taylor’s exit could be part of broader-reaching changes in the Washington outfield. The Nats hold a $10.5MM club option over right fielder Adam Eaton, but that seems likely to be bought out after a career-worst year at the plate and a generally injury-interrupted Nationals tenure. The Nats took a look at Juan Soto in right field in the season’s final week — perhaps foreshadowing a changing of the guard in that aspect.