The Royals have signed centerfielder Michael A. Taylor to a two-year, $9 million contract extension according to ESPN’s Jeff Passan that will run through the 2023 season. The deal includes $500,000 in bonuses, according to Anne Rogers of MLB.com.
The 30-year old Taylor has been one of the best defensive outfielders in baseball, according to the metrics, but has been lackluster with the bat, hitting .244/.298/.359 with 12 home runs and 14 steals in 508 plate appearances. But his stellar glove is what the Royals have been looking for in centerfield. According to Fangraphs, he leads all players in Defensive Runs Saved at +21. He also leads all outfielders in Ultimate Zone Rating and Out of Zone Plays Made. He has been worth 2.7 WAR according to Baseball-Reference, and 1.9 WAR according to Fangraphs.
The Royals signed Taylor to a one-year, $1.5 million contract after he was non-tendered by the Nationals last off-season. The right-handed hitter has hit .239/.293/.387 and a 30 percent strikeout rate in 711 career Major League games. Taylor was eligible to become a free agent after the World Series. The Royals were projected to have a payroll of around $80 million, depending on how the Taylor contract is structured, that could run close to $85 million now.
At $4.5 million per year, Taylor may not necessarily be a starter full-time. You could see him split time with Kyle Isbel, who has hit well down the stretch. Adalberto Mondesi may also see time in the outfield, and the Royals have talked about moving him to centerfield. This probably does lessen the likelihood of making a big move for a centerfielder, such as trading for a player like Cedric Mullins or Ramon Laureano, or signing free agent Starling Marte in a thin outfield market. With many young position players coming up, the Royals now appear to have several options for their roster, which could make for an interesting off-season.