Twins

Does A Michael A. Taylor Reunion Make Sense For the Twins?

Photo Credit: Matt Blewett-USA TODAY Sports

The 2023 Minnesota Twins prioritized depth. They signed Donovan Solano and Willi Castro and traded for Kyle Farmer, adding veterans in platoon or situational roles. Each of them filled a specific role with the team. Michael A. Taylor may have been their most impactful depth addition from a year ago.

Minnesota acquired Taylor in a January 24 trade with the Kansas City Royals. Adding Taylor gave the Twins a right-handed hitting outfielder to platoon with the corner spots and an established center fielder who could fill in for Byron Buxton. Minnesota needed Taylor as the opening-day center fielder, and he played 126 games in center field for the Twins last season.

Taylor had a career year offensively last season. He slashed .220/.278/.442, but Taylor smacked a career-high 21 home runs as the No. 9 hitter. His .720 OPS was the second-highest of his career. According to FanGraphs, Taylor also had 13 stolen bases and a 2.3 baserunning score. But Taylor made his biggest contribution in the outfield. The former Gold Glove winner wasn’t Buxton, but he still produced an 8 outs above-average clip at one of baseball’s most demanding positions.

The Twins could do worse than reuniting with Taylor. They’d have to pay Tayor more than the $3.3 million he made last year, but likely it would be on a one-year contract under $10 million. But re-signing Taylor shouldn’t be a priority for Minnesota’s front office. That’s especially true considering the franchise’s limited salary resources based on their self-imposed payroll reduction.

Taylor had a resurgent season in Minnesota, but the power might not be sustainable going into his age-33 season. He has only hit double-digit home runs in four of his 10 big league seasons. And with power came strikeouts for Taylor. His 33.5 percent strikeout clip was in the bottom three percent in the league and the second-worst of his career. The walk numbers weren’t much better in 2023 because Taylor’s 6.7 percent walk rate was below the 8.4 percent league average clip.

Taylor’s 96 wRC+ last year wasn’t all bad, considering his defense and baserunning make up for the league-average production. However, the Twins will have Buxton in center field again, and he had an 8 OAA in center field in 2022. Early reports from camp are that Buxton is the best he’s felt in years, and he’s planning on returning to a full-time role in center field for 2024.

Every Twins fan hopes Buxton will have a breakthrough in games played in 2024. Still, Buxton only played 85 games last year. Minnesota must prioritize a backup plan for Buxton that can be ready to play in long stretches if the situation arises.

The Twins didn’t have major-league depth in center field a year ago, so they traded for Taylor. Now, Castro has emerged as a super-utility player with the speed to play center field. That, combined with a .750 OPS in 124 games for the Twins last year, shows he can be a capable fill-in for Buxton at the plate. As a runner, Castro was the only one who was more impactful than Taylor on the basepaths with a 28.6 feet/second sprint speed and a team-leading 33 stolen bases last year.

Austin Martin is another option who deserves an extended look. While he doesn’t have the same top prospect status that he once carried since coming over in the José Berríos trade, Martin can bring many of the skills that Taylor held in Minnesota. Martin can play almost everywhere on the diamond, and he played 11 games in center field for the Triple-A St. Paul Saints last season.

Martin had 13 stolen bases for the Saints in 2023, but he doesn’t have much power. Still, he is a low strikeout (17.1 percent), high walk (14.3 percent), and singles hitter (.263 batting average) who can get on base and diversify Minnesota’s lineup.

Castro and Martin are risky backup options for Buxton in center field. Bringing Taylor in again as that stable veteran would give the Twins more depth, which they value. On the other hand, depth is a luxury the Twins may not want to pay for this offseason in the same way they did a year ago. Castro is also under team control for $3 million a year until 2026, and Martin is a former top-five pick who will need to find some kind of chance for playing time. What’s the point of shopping for Taylor if you already have a similar player mold at home?

It’s not so much that Taylor would be a bad player. He just may not be worth working into the team’s reduced payroll. In a typical offseason, there’s no reason the Twins couldn’t sign Taylor and an Adam Duvall-like player. But they had to choose this offseason, and Minnesota might be better off loading up on a right-handed slugger who can platoon with Matt Wallner in left field.

Michael A. Taylor was a solid player for the Twins in 2023. He was a reliable player at one of Minnesota’s most important defensive positions in place of Buxton. His power and a steady bat at the bottom of the order were a crucial cog in a Twins machine that won the AL Central, along with snapping the postseason losing streak.

A reunion wouldn’t be the worst outcome for both parties. However, Buxton expects to be in center field again, Austin Martin is close to breaking into the big leagues, and Minnesota needs more of a slugger to platoon with Wallner in left field. Therefore, the Twins might be better off not using what could be the last of this year’s spendable payroll.

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Photo Credit: Matt Blewett-USA TODAY Sports

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