It remains to be seen whether J.J. Picollo will be more transactional than Dayton Moore, but one clear move the team could make this off-season is to trade centerfielder Michael A. Taylor. Taylor has been a pretty valuable pickup for the Royals since signing with them before the 2021 season, playing Gold Glove-caliber defense in a ballpark that requires a ballhawk. But with the emergence of Drew Waters and Kyle Isbel, the 31-year-old Taylor seems like a poor fit for a team trying to go young, something Jim Bowden at The Athletic pointed out in an article on American League team needs, writing, “don’t be surprised if they end up trading center fielder Michael A. Taylor and infielder/outfielder Hunter Dozier this offseason, if they can find the right deal.”
While Dozier has virtually no trade value with a long-term deal and an inability to hit or field, Taylor could actually have teams interested in his services. He won a Gold Glove in 2021, and was a finalist again this year, leading all outfielders in Defensive Runs Saved. He will earn just $4.5 million next year, a salary any team should be able to absorb. His bat has been his biggest weakness, with a career OPS+ of 81. Last year he got off to a good start, but hit just .220/.261/.306 after the trade deadline, putting his overall numbers around his career line.
But if the Royals didn’t get much offensive production from centerfield, neither did a lot of teams. As Tom Verducci pointed out at Sports Illustrated this week, the centerfield position declined this year to hit .237/.303/.385 overall, the lowest mark from the position since complete records were taken in 1973. Suddenly, Taylor’s line of .254/.313/.357 last year seems pretty close to average for the position.
What could the Royals get for Taylor? I wouldn’t expect a top 10 prospect in anyone’s system, but maybe someone in the 15-30 range of an average farm system, perhaps with even a lottery ticket arm thrown in for good measure. Which teams could be interested in Taylor’s services? Here are a few potential options.
The Cubs have been in the wilderness but appear to be trying to find a path back to contention. They had the worst center field defense in baseball last year, according to Defensive Runs Saved, and could use an upgrade. Taylor could be a cheap way to do that, and would fit in a mix with lefty Rafael Ortega as a stop gap until more promising long-term options emerge like Nelson Velasquez, Brennen Davis, and Pete Crow-Armstrong. As far as a return, perhaps the Royals could get a promising A-ball pitcher like Luis Devers or even hard-throwing Luke Little and his triple digit fastball.
Taylor has been used to roaming spacious Kauffman Stadium, so transitioning to wide open spaces at Coors Field should be no problem. Yonathan Daza was brutal in centerfield for them last year, and profiles as more of a fourth outfielder. Taylor could step in and become a ballhawk, providing a big boon to their pitching staff. He also has some decent power at times and could see his home run numbers get a boost in the thin air. The Rockies may be reluctant to part with arms, but the Royals could aim for a young pitcher like 19-year-old Victor Juarez.
Taylor doesn’t quite seem like a starter for a team defending their world championship, but they are a team that looks for every angle to win games, and having a ballhawk like Taylor that can come in and play in their outfield would be a plus. The team is a bit light on outfield depth right now, but also a bit right-handed heavy other than starting right field Kyle Tucker, so Taylor may not be a good fit in that respect. But if they fail to land a big starter, they could go with Taylor in a fourth outfielder role. The Houston farm system isn’t what it once was, but the Royals could ask for a live arm like Misael Tamarez in return.
The Brew Crew have already traded away starting outfielder Hunter Renfroe and there are rumors they may look to deal other regulars. It is not clear whether they are just re-tooling to extend their window of contention, or conducting a fire sale to start over. If they are just tinkering at the edges and still expect to compete next year, they could be interested in an upgrade in center field. Taylor would be a low-cost option that wouldn’t cost them the future, and he could allow them to slowly transition to Garrett Mitchell in the future. Taylor could even pair with former Royals farmhand Blake Perkins, who the Brewers signed to a big league deal. I doubt the Brewers would part with one of their top draft picks from last year for Taylor, but wouldn’t it be ironic if the Royals acquired Brewers infielder Robert Moore, son of former Royals GM Dayton Moore?
The Marlins seem like they are trying to move the team forward to contention, and while they have a pair of young options in centerfield in Bryan de la Cruz and Jesus Sanchez, Taylor could provide a low-cost, veteran option to give them more depth. The Marlins are pretty lefty-heavy in their pen, the Royals could be interested in getting Tanner Scott or Steven Okert.
San Francisco Giants
Well it’s clear the Giants have mega-free agent Aaron Judge firmly in their sights, but if Aaron heads to LA or stays in the Bronx, the Giants will need a Plan B. The Giants had some poor centerfield defense last year, and lack a lot of depth even if they bring in Judge. Taylor could slot as a starter or a reserve role for a team looking to contend. The Royals drafted pitcher R.J. Dabovich out of high school, this could be their opportunity to finally get him in their farm system.