Editor’s Note: This is the Monday, September 20 edition of Journalist JP Hoornstra’s Inside the Dodgers newsletter. To receive the newsletter in your inbox, register here.
Oh hello there. I didn’t see you come in. Get a chair and a cup of coffee. Let’s talk about free agents.
The Dodgers, you see, have some looming free agents on their roster. I’ve thought about their fate a lot lately. The collective agreement between MLB and the MLB Players Association expires this winter. Without a new one, there will be no 2022 season and no clarity on the mechanism by which players are paid. We do not know how this new collective agreement will affect the financial perspectives of Clayton kershaw, Max Scherzer, Corey seager, Kenley jansen and Chris taylor. So far, all we know is that these players don’t have a contract for next year.
That makes them special among the men who currently bring the Dodgers closer to the finish line for the 2021 season. No matter what the CBA holds, they’re five pretty valuable baseball players.
There are five days in the work week, and it’s as good a week as any before the end of the season to assess the prospects of five future free agents. My apologies to Jimmy nelson, Shane Greene, Albert Pujols, Cole hamels, Danny duffy and Corey Knebel (the other upcoming Dodgers free agents), but this week isn’t for you. This week is all about the guys whose fans tend to shop for jerseys in the team store.
Let’s start with Taylor. Come to think of it, I don’t see many (none?) CT3 jerseys floating in the stands at Dodger Stadium. In a star team, Taylor is more of a âglue guyâ. He is the Darrell hammond to the rest of the cast of “Saturday Night Live”. He’ll never steal a scene on his own, but he’s versatile and talented enough to play a vital role in any scene you could script.
On another team, a player who can play four positions competently and give you 3-4 wins over substitution in an average year, could be the most important impending free agent for the GM to re -sign. On the Dodgers, it’s easy to lose sight of Taylor’s value. He beats towards the end of the roster. His defense is more reliable than flashy. It requires little to no maintenance from the Dodgers coaching staff behind the scenes.
Speaking of which, there is a good flow!
WHY TAYLOR REMAINS A DODGER
It was Taylor’s work with current batting coach Robert Van Scoyoc this sent him on the path to transformation into a 3-4 war player in the 2016-17 offseason. Van Scoyoc seems unlikely to go anywhere by all accounts. Why should Taylor?
For all the stars they acquire and the prospects they develop, the Dodgers have never struggled to find playing time for Taylor. He missed a month in 2019 when he broke his forearm. Otherwise, Taylor would have more than 500 home plate appearances in every non-pandemic season he played in Los Angeles. It’s not like he has to leave town to find more drummers. Taylor is a perfect fit for a Dodgers team that every year inspires their players to buy into the idea of ââpositional versatility, allowing him to replace AJ Pollock Where Cody bellinger Where Corey seager Where Gavin Lux or Mookie Betts or Justin turner.
Equally important, the Dodgers tend to win. There are a limited number of organizations Taylor could join with an equal or greater promise of winning a World Series. Whether his goal is to win, or to play, or to join an organization that can fix his swing every time he (… hum â¦) Needs to be fixed. Taylor can do all of these things if he stays in Los Angeles.
WHY TAYLOR DOESN’T REMAIN A DODGER
Any player who qualifies as “a good fit on the Team A roster” is probably a good fit on most other teams as well. And with the Dodgers, the cost of a perpetually successful farming system is that there is often a high-caliber replacement for any free agent found in the miners. Bellinger replaced AndrÃ© Ethier. Muncy replaced Adrian Gonzalez. Will Smith replaced Yasmani Grandal. Walker Buehler replaced Brandon McCarthy. This is not necessarily what you would call “being cheap”, although optically it could have the same effect. It’s a good list building.
When Chris Taylor sits down to weigh his options this offseason, there’s a non-zero chance his best offer will come from a team that needs him more than the Dodgers. A team, perhaps, that isn’t as good at drafting and developing, or identifying future All-Stars from the junk piles of other organizations – like Muncy, or like Taylor himself once upon a time.
Last winter we saw the Boston Red Sox sign utility players Kike Hernandez (two-year-old, $ 14 million) and Marwin Gonzalez (one-year, $ 3 million). Taylor is a better hitter and perhaps just as versatile defensively as Hernandez and Gonzalez. He’ll play most of next season at 31, a year older than Hernandez when he became a free agent. In a similar free agent market, with a similar CBA – two admittedly dangerous assumptions – Taylor’s floor salary is expected to be higher than that of Hernandez (who will end this season with career highs in home plate and WAR appearances) . A good end to the regular season and playoffs could help Taylor allay concerns about the age-related decline.
Here is a not so far-fetched hypothesis. The San Francisco Giants will head into winter with some cash to spare and a star free agent of their own in Kris Bryant, that they could consider more than an end of season rental. The problem with Bryant is that he’s not a particularly good outfielder in one of six positions he has held this season. An American League team could be drawn to sign Bryant with the option of leaving him DH more than not. (If DH arrives in the National League, Bryant’s market will only expand.) What if the Giants don’t sign Bryant again? Could they then turn to Taylor, a lighter hitter but a superior outfielder? In that case, do the Dodgers – a team with Mookie Betts and Trea Turner and Will Smith and Justin Turner among their stable of right-handed hitters – do they need Taylor as much as the Giants?
Players with Taylor’s pedigree don’t come often. Hernandez’s bat is too light to be a perfect composition. In the age of integration, there has been only 67 seasons of players in which the guy played all three outfield positions, as well as second base, shortstop and third base, and hit over 400 times. About half (33) of the time, this player had an OPS below 100. Taylor is responsible for two of the remaining 34 seasons. It’s closer to the top Ben zobrist than you might think, if a little too old to be paid accordingly, and we all know who loves a good Ben Zobrist.
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