The Royals are open to the possibility of dealing center fielders Michael A Taylor, reports Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal. They also did corner infielder/outfielder Hunter Dozier available, Rosenthal writes, although of the duo Taylor is the more appealing.
Taylor, who turns 32 just before Opening Day, is having one of the better seasons of his career. He hit .254/.313/.357 with nine homers across 456 plate appearances in 2022. That offensive effort is below average, but it was his best work on the plate since his 19-homer appearance at Nationals in 2017.
The right-hander has a .241/.296/.381 line in a little under 2800 plate appearances over portions of nine seasons. Strikes were a constant problem most of the time as he routinely fanned out over 30% of his trips while in Washington. However, Taylor has trimmed that swing-and-miss somewhat in recent years, including a career-low 23.9% strikeout percentage last season. That’s still a few points above average, but hardly disastrous, and his .313 baseline percentage was also his best since that 2017 campaign.
Of course, Taylor’s greater appeal lies in his defensive acumen. He’s an excellent midfielder who regularly gets top marks for his glove. Taylor has averaged 60 runs in nearly 5,500 career innings at center as measured by runs saved on defense. Statcast has put him on 37 above-average runs since the start of the 2016 season. Even as he’s hit his 30s, the former sixth-round pick hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down. DRS ranked him as the league’s most valuable defensive midfielder that year, rating him 19 runs above average. Statcast wasn’t quite so optimistic, attributing him “only” +5 runs.
Regardless of the exact value of Taylor’s defense, there’s no question that he’s a plus on this side of the ball. He’s also fairly affordable, thanks to a modest $4.5 million warranty in the second season of a two-year contract extension. He’ll hit free agency late next year, but he’d be a good makeshift and/or quality fourth fielder for a contender.
This is especially true given how flat the midfield market is. Free Agency is essentially free of regulars at this point, which is highlighted by players like Jackie Bradley Jr., Raphael Ortega and Bradley room. There aren’t many obvious trade candidates either. Bryan Reynolds is the most speculated target after its trade request, but the pirates have maintained an extremely high asking price. So does the Diamondbacks, who seek MLB-eligible help with any deal they leave Daulton Varsho, Alexander Thomas or Jake McCarthy. players like Max Kepler and Ramon Laureano could switch uniforms, although each is better suited to right field. Cedric Mullins, Trent Grisham and Dylan Carlson all seem to be moving longshots at best.
A number of teams could check with Kansas City about Taylor, which would be offered at a much lower price than all younger options with extended remaining control windows. Rosenthal writes that the Dodgers are scouring the trade market for midfield help, though it’s unclear if they’re specifically interested in Taylor. Other speculative candidates for a midfield addition include the Giants, Marlins, Red Sox and Rockies.
While Taylor should generate a few calls, Kansas City may have a harder time finding a buyer for Dozier. The 31-year-old doesn’t have much defensive value. Limited to corners, he has received very poor ratings at third base and outfield, with first base and designated hitter being a better match. However, Dozier hasn’t hit at an appropriate level for those positions the last two seasons, carrying a combined .226/.289/.391 line in 1043 plate appearances. FanGraphs and Baseball Reference each placed its production below replacement levels for both seasons.
The Royals signed Dozier to a contract extension for the 2021 season that guarantees him $25 million over four years. That’s likely what the organization wants back, as Dozier never made the expected step forward after hitting .279/.348/.522 with 26 homers in 2019. The former eighth overall pick has $17.25 million due over the next two seasons (including a buyout for a 2025 club option), and the royals would have to eat most of that bill or roll back an unwanted deal to find a taker.
If Dozier stays in Kansas City, Rosenthal suggests the royals would likely bring him back to third base. Vinnie Pasquantino has seized either first base or the designated hitter job while he used to be the best prospect Nick Prato should get another chance elsewhere. MJ Melendez appears to be the favorite for the season on left field while the club have a number of outfielders (Drew Waters, Edward Olivares and Kyle Isbel), who could jockey for replays in right field.
Moving Dozier back to the hot corner would reduce both of their game time Nate Eatonwho ended the season fairly well as a 25-year-old rookie, and former top contender Adalberto Mondesi. Mondesi and the royals agreed on a salary of $3.045 million for next year and bought out his final season of arbitration. He is retiring from another season largely injured, this time with a cruciate ligament rupture in his left knee in April. Rosenthal suggests that KC could also explore trades with Mondesi.
The 27-year-old Mondesi has at times displayed an enviable combination of performance potential and athleticism. He’s stolen 133 bases and connected on 38 homers in 358 MLB games, flashing the elite physical tools that have made him such an alluring young talent. But he’s also displayed an extremely aggressive offensive approach that has affected his consistency, and he’s only a .244/.280/.408 career hitter. Mondesi is yet to hit 500 plate appearances in a season, with oblique, hamstring, shoulder, back and groin issues all affecting him before this year’s ACL injury. With that kind of track record, he’s difficult to rely on, but he’s shown flashes of impressive talent at times as a big player.