5:38 pm: The Dodgers have also expressed interest in Taylor, writes Fabian Ardaya of the Athletic. Los Angeles is looking for a right-handed bat who can see some acton in the outfield, where the lefty-hitting Jason Heyward currently projects to man right field.
There’s some sense to either party pursuing the righty-swinging defensive standout. The Reds currently project to have left-handed hitter TJ Friedl and Will Benson in center field and right field, respectively. Friedl has excelled in left-on-left matchups in his brief big league tenure and in the upper minors, but Benson has not (.130/.200/.174 in a small sample of 50 plate appearances). As things stand, Stuart Fairchild is probably the favorite to platoon with Benson, but he’s only a .229/.343/.389 hitter in 170 career plate appearances versus lefties.
Taylor, meanwhile, slashed .252/.313/.602 and pounded nine home runs in his 112 plate appearances against southpaws this past season. He’s a career .256/.310/.436 hitter against left-handed pitching. Taylor is also a plus defender in the outfield, evidenced by strong marks in Defensive Runs Saved (5) and Outs Above Average (8) in just 129 games and 965 innings of center field work with Minnesota this past season. He’d not only give the Reds a potential platoon partner for Benson but also a viable late-game defensive upgrade or pinch-running weapon off the bench.
Over in Toronto, Taylor would only further add to a heavily right-handed roster. However, the Jays currently project to have Daulton Varsho and Nathan Lukes line up for regular time in the outfield. The Jays have been linked to a number of alternative options in the outfield, but even if they do make an outfield addition, bringing Taylor into the fold as a fourth outfielder makes some sense.
Taylor, who’ll turn 33 in March, had a characteristically strong defensive showing and belted a career-best 21 homers with the Twins in 2023, though his season wasn’t all roses. The longtime Nationals outfielder turned in a .278 OBP — a career-low in a 162-game season — and punched out at an alarming 33.5% rate (nearly eight percentage points higher than his mark over the past three seasons).
Taylor was perhaps selling out for some of the power he displayed, and the resulting bottom-of-the-scale OBP wasn’t pretty — but it was overall a fairly useful package. He went 13-for-14 in steals with plus defense and enough power to offset that OBP; both FanGraphs and Baseball-Reference had him just shy of two wins above replacement in only about 60% of a season’s worth of plate appearances. Taylor has previously expressed interest in returning to the Twins, though it’s not clear whether they’ll make a strong effort to do so amid their RSN-driven reported payroll cuts.