At the end of September last year, as the season was winding down, Michael A. Taylor was about a week away from hitting free agency. The Royals, however, were determined to prevent that from happening and gave him a $9MM extension that would keep him around for another two years.
Taylor has never really done too much with his bat, finishing the 2021 season with a career batting line of .239/.293/.386 for a wRC+ of just 79. But the Royals were surely motivated to lock him up because of his tremendous defense. Taylor ended up finishing first among MLB center fielders in the Fielding Bible’s voting for 2021. His 15 Outs Above Average last year were the second-most in all of baseball, trailing only Manuel Margot’s 16. His 19 Defensive Runs Saved were also second in the league, trailing only the 20 racked up by Carlos Correa. His 13.3 Ultimate Zone Rating was easily the best, well ahead of Matt Chapman’s 8.7.
Kansas City making defense a priority made sense for a couple of reasons. First, the spacious confines of Kauffman Stadium make it so that defense is always important for the team. Secondly, the rebuilding club was set to feature a number of young and inexperienced pitchers, making any extra outs very important for building confidence and limiting workloads.
However, Taylor has bucked his career trends in a couple of ways here in 2022. For one thing, he’s having easily the best year of his career in terms of his bat. Through 47 games, he’s got an 11.2% walk rate, a great improvement over his 7% career mark. Similarly, he’s striking out in 22.4% of his plate appearances, well below his 29.9% career rate. That’s helped him produce a batting line of .272/.355/.401, which amounts to a wRC+ of 119. Prior to this year, Taylor’s wRC+ has been 80 or below in every season except for a 104 back in 2017.
But on the other hand, his defense doesn’t seem to be quite as elite as last year, at least in the eyes of the advanced metrics. OAA currently has him at 1 for the season, DRS at 3 and UZR at -0.2. Defensive metrics are notoriously fickle, meaning it’s possible that this is just small sample noise. Though Taylor is also 31 years old now, making it possible that 2021 was a peak that he’s started to come down from.
The Royals have a record of 23-42, one of the worst in the league, lining them up to be clear sellers at this year’s trade deadline. Taylor doesn’t absolutely have to be traded since his contract goes through 2023. The Royals could keep him around for another year and hope that they have better luck next year in their attempts to transition from rebuilding to contending. But there’s also an argument to be made that Taylor’s value is at its peak. He’s never been hitting anywhere near this level before and there’s a chance his excellent defensive skills have started to wane.
There’s also the possibility that two months of improved results with the bat won’t compel any team to part with significant prospects that would entice the Royals to pull a trigger on a trade. But then again, teams in search of help in center field don’t have a lot of options. Cedric Mullins and Bryan Reynolds have been constantly in trade rumors over the past year, but their respective teams have apparently been steadfast in maintaining high asking prices in any trade discussions. The Marlins have reportedly been making a strong push for Ramon Laureano, but without successfully getting the A’s to budge thus far. There aren’t many options beyond that group that are both exciting and available.
Coupled with that low supply is strong demand. The Marlins have been trying to upgrade in center field for a long time but without finding a deal to their liking. The Brewers just cut ties with Lorenzo Cain, leaving them with Tyrone Taylor and Jonathan Davis as their center field tandem. Cody Bellinger has rebounded from his nightmare 2021 but is still having a below-average season at the plate. The Astros and Phillies are getting okay results this year from Chas McCormick and Odubel Herrera, respectively, but could still look to supplement there. Perhaps the Yankees will look to bump Aaron Judge back into a corner outfield role to reduce his daily wear and tear. There’s also the possibility some team that doesn’t strictly need a center fielder just wants one to give their regular outfielders some occasional down time.
The Royals will have a decision to make between now and the August 2 trade deadline. Do they hang onto Taylor for another year or try to cash him in for some prospects while his value is high? Even if they lean towards the former option, it’s possible that the market forces push some team into making them an offer that makes them change their mind.
trade him and play isbel
Taylor is an interesting piece for sure. I think the Phillies obviously could and would benefit from a true CFer out there. The Yankees make a ton of sense. I see Judge doing decently now however I think as the season wears on his body will start to wear down. Kind of like what happened with Duvall in Atlanta. Once they got him out of CF Duvall got back swinging.
I don’t think he’s a good fit for Miami. Miami needs a Reynolds/Mullins. Someone who’d give them some offense as well as solid defense
“The Yankees make a ton of sense…”
– I absolutely agree. Hicks cannot play CF anymore and Taylor does have sneaky pop. Most importantly, he can play the hell out of CF.
Or, we can accept Aaron Judge as our CFer! Hicks has now moved to the role I wanted him in. 4th OFer.
This is the exact type of CF the Yankees should be looking for. Moves Judge back to RF and now your defense is above average at every spot. With this pitching staff this is all we need.
Agreed — I think they know this and it’s why they took a flyer on Ender Inciarte — but alas that did not work out…
Just come to sf already
Michael a Taylor for jd davis straight up
Whatever happens, I wish MAT the best!
Backup Catcher to the Backup Catcher
I would trade Taylor. This year’s offensive numbers are clearly an outlier. Remember, tigers don’t change their stripes.
Besides, the Royals, perhpas in anticipation of trading Taylor, claimed Roman Quinn off waivers from the Phillies.
Quinn is a demon on the basepaths, and if you can believe it, would cover more ground in CF than Taylor.
Between limited opportunities for an everyday gig, and seemingly intent on pursuing a love affair with the injury bug, Quinn has never even started 10 games in a row.
I say, trade Taylor and play Quinn in CF. His SB-CS success rate at the MLB level is off the charts. He’s stolen 47 bases and only been caught 8 times. Plus, even with all the injuries, he stole over 170 bases in the minors.
The long term answer for CF in KC? No, but if Quinn plays well, come 2023 or earlier, they could do the same thing with him as Taylor.
Royals going nowhere this year. Shake it up. And remember the sage words of Jimmy the Greek, “No balls, no blue chips!”.
This will not happen. The Royals will lose Benintendi before at the trade deadline. Taylor has been a blessing for the Royals. The team has two outstanding prospects in Olivares and Isbel. The Royals are set next year and trading Taylor is an unnecessary gamble.
Curious…. What exactly is the “unnecessary gamble” by trading Taylor?
He’s not a part of the future. His OWar is already the 2nd highest of his 9 season career — and on pace to be his highest – so it’s a real sell high.
Call up Vinny P then that frees up Dozier and O’Hearn to play a corner with Quinn, Benny or Isbel at CF. Throw in Merrifield and potential call-ups like Nate Eaton — there’s a lot of OF depth available.
Why? Neither Olivares or Isbel has proven themselves on this level. Or proven they can stay healthy for a full season. Benintendi is gone after the trade deadline. Right field will be Merrifield or anybody hitting well.. Taylor anchors the outfield for one more year while Isbel or Olivares steps up. There is no reason to trade him. The Royals get another year from gold glove center fielder who’s offensive numbers are climbing for less then 5 million per year. Finding someone better is highly unlikely and what I call a unnecessary gamble.
I wonder if the two year deal, regular playing time and being the vet instead of the young kid gave Taylor confidence enough to play this well.
Chas is a astro my friend.
The Yankees instead should go after the Pittsburgh CF who was an all star last year and who is a switch hitter. Plus he is 25.
Yes, the Yankees should be all over every CF that is unavailable in trade. Why actually fill a position of need, when you can fantasize about filling it. Detroit could use a power hitter. Maybe the Yankees will be looking to move Judge before they lose him for nothing. Makes as much sense!
Angels & NL West
Benintendi should be available and would be a nice rental for someone. His best position is LF, but he can play a little CF in a pinch.
No he can’t
Angels & NL West
keysox, thanks for the insight and analysis. I’ve changed my mind. Under no circumstances could Benintendi “play a little CF in a pinch.”
As an aside, have you ever considered writing for MLBTR? Your takes are delightful.
I don’t think the Os trade Cedric Mullins nor do I think the Pirates trade Bryan Reynolds. Michael Taylor doesn’t make any contending team better. RH below average bat iare all around MiLB.
As others pointed out, Andrew Benintendi will be traded by the deadline
MT in Baltimore
This guy is a completely over-hyped player since he came on the scene w the Nationals.
He’s (at best) a defensive replacement bench player.
That’s right, I said it.
He was bad w the nats but can you blame him
DC is a hellhole
“Defensive metrics are notoriously fickle, meaning it’s possible that this is just small sample noise.”
What’s fun about small samples is they grow into large samples and the outcome of the large sample is affected by the small samples that comprise it. So I don’t know if noise or not.
Nothing beats the ole eye test
Taylor and Nintendo should both come to the Yanks in a package and they are set. Judge shifts back to RF and now you have one of the best defensive outfields in the game in Nintendo-Taylor-Judge. Not sure if they could even get a decent bullpen arm for Gallo at this point so just take what you can get or chuck him in the dumpster and make Hicks an expensive 4th outfielder. The team is ready for the postseason after that deal besides some niche roles like a speedster off the bench.
Are we talking old school NES or are we getting the upgrade to N64?
OK, advanced metrics say Taylor isn’t as good in CF… because of age… yet, offensively, he is doing better… or is he? Because… of age?
The Royals are probably on the verge of a strong finish before the all-star break. The schedule has them playing a majority of sub 500 series between now and then and the young pitching has been tossing better as of late. They have three solid veterans in the lineup that figure to finish strong should the history of their careers be indicators. This all said Santana needs released for their young star smashing them in triple A. KC currently 18 under even with a decent run will still be 12-13 under at the break but Taylor will stay because of the young staff.
After an absolutely terrible start the Royals could actually find themselves within ten games of first at the end of June!
They finish the month playing 6 of 7 at home with a remaining road game tonight against the Angels. Follow that up with the A’s and Rangers coming in and suddenly a 5-2 stretch could lead to the unthinkable with nobody in the division running away.
Taylor will be stuck in KC until at least the week of the deadline.