The Royals announced an agreement to keep center fielder Michael A. Taylor from hitting the open market this winter. Taylor receives a two-year, $9MM guarantee, paid out via successive $4.5MM salaries in 2022 and 2023. He’d receive an additional $50K for hitting the 325, 375, 425, 475 and 525 plate appearance mark in each season, with up to $500K in total incentives available. Taylor is represented by ALIGND Sports Agency.
It’s a bit surprising at first glance to see Kansas City jump the market to extend Taylor, who is amidst a below-average year at the plate in his first season in Royal blue. Across 508 plate appearances, the 30-year-old owns a .244/.298/.359 line with twelve home runs. Even after accounting for Kansas City’s extremely pitcher-friendly home ballpark, Taylor’s offensive numbers check in around 21 percentage points below league average according to wRC+.
That’s right in line with his typical production. The right-handed hitter spent the first seven seasons of his big league career with the Nationals, generally struggling to produce much offensively. Taylor has flashed intriguing power potential at times, but he’s been held back by a propensity to swing and miss. He’s not a complete free swinger — Taylor’s rate of chasing pitches outside the strike zone hovers right around league average — but he comes up empty quite a bit even when swinging at pitches inside the strike zone.
Taylor has posted above-average offensive numbers just once in parts of eight big league seasons. Over 432 plate appearances with the Nats in 2017, he hit .271/.320/.486 and popped 19 homers. That season was propped up by an unsustainably high .363 batting average on balls in play, though, and Taylor hasn’t found that kind of success in the years since. Going back to the start of the 2018 campaign, he owns a .234/.291/.364 line with an alarming 28.9% strikeout rate.
That the Royals are anxious to keep Taylor off the open market in spite of his offensive struggles is a testament to his prowess with the glove. Taylor rated very highly defensively throughout his time in Washington, and he’s continued to excel on that side of the ball with Kansas City.
Aside from a pair of semi-rest days at designated hitter, Taylor has lined up exclusively in center field this season. Over 1,141 innings at the position, he’s rated as a staggering 21 runs above average, by measure of Defensive Runs Saved. That’s six runs clear of second-place finisher Harrison Bader. Statcast’s range-based Outs Above Average metric paints a similar picture. By that measure, Taylor is tied with Bader and Manuel Margot with an outfield-best +14 plays. Those advanced metrics align with Taylor’s general reputation for defensive excellence.
The Royals have long valued defense more than most clubs, partially because of the extreme spaciousness of Kauffman Stadium. Excellent glovework was a backbone of their back-to-back pennant winners (and one-time champions) last decade, and the front office continues to place a real emphasis on turning batted balls into outs. With Taylor among the sport’s best handful of players at tracking down fly balls, they’ve struck early to keep him in the fold for the next couple seasons.
While Kansas City surely values Taylor quite a bit, it’s also worth keeping in mind that there wouldn’t have been too many viable alternatives available even if they wished to turn elsewhere. Starling Marte handily tops the upcoming free agent center field class, but he always seemed likely to land a multi-year deal that would’ve been above the Royals’ typical range of spending. Beyond Marte, the class features a group of players who have almost unanimously scuffled offensively this season — Kevin Pillar, Jake Marisnick and Danny Santana among them. There’d have been a strong case for Taylor as the second-best overall center fielder available in free agency.
It’s similarly unclear which center fielders would be attainable in trade. There’ll surely be plenty of calls on players like Cedric Mullins, Bryan Reynolds and Ketel Marte, but their teams’ willingness to make those respective players available ranges from questionable to highly unlikely.
Rather than test the vagaries of the free agency and trade markets, the Royals will lock Taylor into center field for the next couple seasons. Last winter, Kansas City added veterans Mike Minor and Carlos Santana on multi-year free agent deals in an effort to contend. That didn’t pan out, but president of baseball operations Dayton Moore and his front office will surely make another run at being competitive this winter. Santana will be back at first base, while franchise cornerstone Salvador Pérez returns on the heels of one of the better offensive seasons by a catcher in recent memory. Nicky Lopez has played well enough to earn an everyday job somewhere, even if top prospect Bobby Witt Jr. comes up early in the season and stakes a claim to Lopez’s current shortstop position. And the versatile Whit Merrifield will be back to hold down a role at some spot on the diamond while hitting at the top of the lineup.
Taylor’s deal brings the Royals’ guaranteed commitments just north of $50MM, in the estimation of Roster Resource’s Jason Martinez. That’s before accounting for a fairly modest arbitration class, which will feature raises for players like Brad Keller, Adalberto Mondesi, Scott Barlow and Lopez. Even if that group winds up banking something in the collective $10-15MM range, that still leaves a bit of breathing room for further additions before hitting this season’s $86MM+ mark. It’s certainly possible ownership would be willing to spend beyond this season’s level, since the franchise has run payrolls north of $120MM in the past.
Jeff Passan of ESPN first reported the Royals’ agreement with Taylor on a two-year, $9MM deal. Alec Lewis of the Athletic reported the deal contained an additional $500K in available incentives. Anne Rogers of MLB.com reported the salaries were to be paid out equally in each season, while Robert Murray of FanSided was first with the specific incentive structure.
Image courtesy of USA Today Sports.
wow, he quietly had a pretty solid year.
“It’s a bit surprising Kansas City felt the need to jump the market to extend Taylor, who is amidst a below-average year at the plate in his first season in Royal blue.”
Hitting below league average but basically a three rWAR season.
His offensive numbers are nothing great, he’s replacement level there. But he has provided Gold Glove-caliber defense, and overall, a 2.7 bWAR is pretty damn good for $4.5 million a year.
Defense and running spike, after last few seasons showing decline
As a 31 year old, will the spike continue?
…On defense only.
decent defender, a little bit of pop. not a bad reserve option if he can replicate 2021.
He is better than “decent” as a defender!
Yes, but defense counts. The CF options look thin. I keep looking to see who the Yankees could grab to strengthen CF. My guess is Hicks will take over and Gardner may still have one more season in him. What happened to CF depth across the league?!
His defense really helped his relevance too. I feel that is a big reason to his extension.
Dayton gonna Dayton.
I find it “a bit surprising” that Anthony Franco, who wrote this story, DIDN’T say a single thing about how awesome Taylor was on defense this year playing CF in the huge outfield of Kauffman Stadium!!! And yet is doesn’t surprise me because all anything thinks about is offense and never about defense! To me, $4.5M a year for a .244 average, 50 RBI, 15 SB, and awesome defense where he only had 3 errors in 134 games (.991%) and 11 PO is WELL WORTH THE MONEY!!!!
Defensive minded cf who can’t hit? Most teams have that in the minors, or at minimum they’re easy to find cheap off market
And in those cases it wouldn’t be a multi million commitment to a 31 year old who had been declining for a few years before this season
He can’t hit? The 2021 average batting average in MLB is .244, and that’s exactly what Taylor is hitting. So he has an average batting average, not a poor average. He also has 50 RBI, which is good, especially while hitting at the bottom of the order. With that and his awesome defense, $4.5/year for 2 years is a good move!
Two stats that don’t really matter
Well all stats have a purpose as far as lining a player up with his peers. Some seem to matter more than others, in this day and age, but there is always a baseline to go on compared to the rest of the league. BA gets trashed because it’s not a clear picture as far as what those at bats meant, but at the end of the day it is indicative as to how you did at the plate day in day out. I was a guy who just wanted to get on base and had speed to put pressure on the pitcher and defense(which has completely fallen by the way side in today’s mlb, it still matters just look at what betts did on the basepaths in the playoffs). I believe a team built around athletes who aren’t focused on power, per se, but have some pop and can run would be a real issue for pitchers in today’s game. Hell 90% of relievers in today’s game don’t even glance at the runner and they all pitch out of the stretch cuz its not a threat. I’m not really sure why RBIs don’t matter to you, that is basically a run count. Cecil Fielder said in the early 90s home runs are great but it’s all about the ribbis…
Batting average is still useful, yes, but if you want a guy to take advantage of his speed, then you need to look at OBP. Furthermore, you should be looking first and foremost at OPS(+), or even better wOBA and wRC+, to get a good overall picture at how good a player is at hitting. Someone who posts an average batting average but falls significantly below average in those other metrics is not a very useful hitter.
RBIs are even worse, since they’re very dependent on your teammates and where you hit in the batting order. Someone who leads off or otherwise hits behind relatively poor hitters is naturally going to have a tough time racking up RBIs no matter how well he hits, and clutch hitting has been shown to be mostly if not entirely a non-skill that merely depends on luck.
Runs Created, whether the simple (RBI + R – HRs) or more advanced version is better in that it mostly fixes the batting order problem, but it’s still a highly team-dependent stat that shouldn’t really be used for independent hitter analysis.
I agree on the OBP, especially when dealing with a speed oriented guy where a walk means a double(or used to). I was just commenting on the stats referenced. I am well aware of the other metrics you brought up and agree with you on the bigger picture they create as far as a batters skill/usefulness. RBIs are what they are, of course leadoff guys won’t get as much and if you play on a garbage team you won’t have the opportunity others have on better clubs. I guess I see rbi as a good number to represent how you perform on the club you happen to be on. 100 rbis on the Dodgers and 70 rbis on the royals can be comparable for example(I just randomly chose those). I use the eye test on that one as far trying to use that to evaluate independent hitter analysis. I watch a ton of baseball every day, using my eyes first, and use advanced metrics as a guide to either support or discredit what I see. Thanks for the response Lanidrac, I enjoy good convo on this site when it’s presented. Others just prefer to troll or trash others regardless of the topic.
If you believe RBI are an accident of where you are in the lineup, explain Guerrero Jr having 45 HR but barely having 100 RBI in that stacked Toronto lineup. Some players can’t hit with runners on. If it was all random, managers would rotate the key spots in the lineup. A good hitter, IMO, should have a 3 to 1 ratio of RBI to HR, if in the heart of the order. Two to one is expected from a leadoff hitter.
“That the Royals are anxious to keep Taylor off the open market in spite of his offensive struggles is a testament to his prowess with the glove. Taylor rated very highly defensively throughout his time in Washington, and he’s continued to excel on that side of the ball with Kansas City.”
Are you glad to know you AREN’T the only one that thinks of defense? Do your powers of observation surprise you too?
Try reading the article before criticizing. Now you look like a long-winded buffoon.
Are you talking to me?
If you are talking to me, I’ll just tell you that he added A LOT to the story from the one that he first posted!! The original one was only about 1/4 of the story that is currently being posted!!! And I won’t say anything about you……..
That’s fair, we have all made comments before the full story is out. And we’ve all been bagged on for it
Ducky Buckin Fent
Well…I just figured that when I looked at 2.7 WAR on the year, that good defense in CF sort of went without saying.
Yep it is
What amazes me is this site will say interesting things like “ having a solid year makes him a valuable keep with his 211 avg.” then someone like Taylor and the Royals hitting 244 and defense and they act like it is a reach. Oh yes I forgot it isn’t the Yankees, Red Sox , Mets or Phillies so it is slanted like every club is stupid.
Get out of your feelings, bro.
Worth the money? Certainly. Good enough to start for a contending team? Very questionable.
LOL, JBJ dislikes this comment
“$4.5M for a .244 hitter, 50 RBI, 15 SB, and awesome defense is well worth the money”
As a Cubs fan, I highly agree… Considering the Cubs are paying Jason Heyward $20+M for the same productivity…
Ducky Buckin Fent
Well, this certainly thins this winters CF market even further.
He seemed like a decent fit for the Yanks at the deadline. He seems like a high-end Greg Allen/Jonathan Davis/Tim Locastro type of player. Can run, can go get it, & even has a little power. You could easily do worse in center.
Maybe after that Perez extension they are assuming this one will cause him to rip 60 homers next year lol.
Can’t complain about this move or the price. Taylor is at the point in his career where we know who and what he is: a $4.5M/yr OF. Royals could have done worse.
Really? At $4.5M, he will make more than all the Pirates current outfielders combined. I like Taylor, but the $4.5M/yr seems a little…… generous. Good for him.
Most of the Pirates’ players haven’t gained enough service time to reach free agency (even if not extended), so naturally their salaries are highly suppressed in comparison. $4.5M/year on the open market is entirely fair for someone like Taylor.
Seems like bucsfan is playing with a tighter budget than his team. I guess there is a bad feelings over Corey Dickerson and Sterling Marte and Gregory Polanco these past few years. I am just hoping the Pirates hang onto Reynolds and build off if that.
What is the point of this move? I know that they have to put SOMEONE in CF, but how does this really help them win now or in the future? Taylor is 4th OF material at best… How Royals.
The point is it allows KC the ability to maintain their mediocrity. As a 4th OF on a contender, its a solid contract. As a starting OF on a rebuilding ball club, it allows the Royals to not fill the position for 2 years, making the rebuild longer. They might have been better served moving Mondesi to CF. He’s not looked good at 3B.
Royals OF prospects years away and few in number. This signing takes some pressure off. Now one good OF FA signing and their OF becomes less of an empty hole.
I’m not a Taylor fan, but Isbel isn’t exactly forcing their hand and nobody else available on the FA market.
Congrats to Taylor
Should only be a fourth OF on a playoff team. Poor signing by the Royals IMO.
And you would rather suggest ______ ?
JBJ signed a 2 year deal AAV of $12 mill. , Taylor was a bargain.
So if the Brewers jumped off a bridge…That JBJ was signed to a regrettable contract, does not make Taylor’s contract any better or any worse. As a rebuilding team, better off gambling on a 6 year FA. If the gamble doesn’t work, you get a higher draft pick. If it works, you get control of a young cheap player and speed up the rebuild.
LOL Those #s are only going to get worse.Royals will Royal