Chris Taylor is Exactly Who The Twins Need this Offseason
A year ago, I championed the idea of the Minnesota Twins signing Los Angeles Dodgers utility man Kiké Hernández. And not to toot my own horn, but:
Hernández has rewarded the Boston Red Sox with 4.4 bWAR through 483 plate appearances while playing shortstop, second base and center field in the first year of a two-year deal worth $14 million.
I’m about to make a similar declaration for this offseason.
And before anyone asks “cAn THiS GuY PiTcH” — I guarantee at least one reply tweet will say this — let’s address the elephant in the room: everyone knows the Twins need pitching.
We’ll talk about that more in detail moving forward, but for now, we’re going to focus on a player the Twins should look to add to their offense because let’s face it, it’s going to be hard for the team to add enough pitching to make it the strength that carries them to a potential playoff berth in 2022.
And that’s something I still think is in the realm of possible as we sit some 370ish days away from then.
Chris Taylor is the guy the Twins need to focus on this offseason. Like Hernández, he’s a jack-of-all-trades Dodger who has made his mark on some pretty good teams.
Unlike Hernández, he’s hitting free agency coming off a fairly stellar season. Taylor is hitting .256/.342/.443 as of this writing, and has played every defensive position except catcher and first base.
A fair question to ask is if the Dodgers will really let Taylor get away, but at this point he hasn’t signed an extension — so he should, at minimum — be fair game for an offer this offseason. Maybe he does return to the Dodgers, who resuscitated a career that had started out poorly with the Mariners in his mid-20s and have reaped the benefits of that for over a half-decade now.
That’s even more prudent of a possibility with Corey Seager primed to hit free agency and cash in big. Then again, would the Dodgers view him as the heir to shortstop? Even with Seager playing in just 86 games at shortstop, Gavin Lux has made 59 appearances at short this season against just 22 for Taylor.
Lux, a former big-time prospect who is still finding his way in the big leagues, appears to be the odds-on favorite to take the position if the Dodgers replace Seager internally. Then again, they have more money than the big man upstairs himself, so maybe they go out and make a splash.
Either way, it seems as though Taylor would probably have to return in the same role he’s held with the Dodgers.
Does he want to start somewhere? Or firm up his positional role, at least? He’s a de facto starter as things are, as he’s played at least 120 games in four of the last five seasons. The other season was 2020, in which he played 56 of a possible 60 games.
So role shouldn’t be an issue.
And if he goes back to Los Angeles, nothing wagered and nothing lost.
But if he hits free agency, the Twins should be all over him.
For one, he’s a right-handed hitter, which would afford the Twins added protection against Luis Arraez, Alex Kirilloff and Trevor Larnach against southpaws. True enough, each of those guys will eventually have to hit lefties to find their ceilings, but in the meantime, Taylor — a career .262/.338/.459 hitter against lefties — provides some nice counterbalance.
He also provides the Twins a cushion to whatever their future is at shortstop. None of the big-time guys are going to come cheaply this offseason — obviously — but the price for Taylor, who just turned 31 last month, should be more palatable.
If a three-year deal at, say, $36 million is necessary to secure his services, he can hold down shortstop in a timeshare with Jorge Polanco while the team decides whether Austin Martin or Royce Lewis is the heir apparent at the position.
Sure, it’s possible neither is — but that seems like a bigger problem altogether.
Can Taylor handle shortstop on a regular basis? That’s the $12 million question (in my estimation), as shuttling him there among other places while mixing in Polanco would make for a really strong duo.
The Twins pretty clearly like what Polanco has done for them at second base, but in terms of where they are in a potential contention window (murky, at best), they have to look to maximize their in-house talent while making prudent additions externally.
Taylor fits that bill because he can easily shift to another position should one of the youngsters prove capable of playing short. Adding Taylor could free up the Twins to move Josh Donaldson and install someone like Jose Miranda at third base, or better yet, provide insurance against a Donaldson or — perish the thought — Byron Buxton injury next season. Taylor not only can play center, but could handle a corner if Max Kepler had to shift over to cover for Buxton in the event of an injury.
Taylor’s body of work is impressive, as he’s hit .265/.343/.462 in 617 games and nearly 2,400 plate appearances — good for a 114 OPS+.
In a way, it’s similar to a guy who had a 112 OPS+ and .273/.344/.453 line for the Twins from 2004-11 — Michael Cuddyer.
Cuddyer moved all over, but never came close to the defensive versatility-plus-ability that Taylor has. With that said, adding another contributor in the vein of Cuddyer is a no-brainer.
Like Hernández a year ago, Taylor gives the Twins protection at a lot of positions where they need it, and enhances their stable of super-utility players like Polanco, Arraez, Nick Gordon and others rather than undermines or overtakes it.
Maybe the Dodgers won’t let Taylor get away. Maybe that’s even the smart-money bet. But when the phones start ringing in free agency, this is a call the Twins need to make. Patching up their offensive holes with one dynamic and versatile hitter leaves more opportunity to free up players and/or money for pitching upgrades — which again, are clearly necessary.