Washington Nationals: Once again, Michael Taylor is a trade candidate
By Blake Finney
After potentially missing the best time to trade Michael Taylor last offseason, the Washington Nationals should put his name out there again this year.
After he had an excellent season in 2017, Michael Taylor came back down to earth in 2018. The Washington Nationals would be wise to see if they can find a trade partner for the outfielder before his value drops even further.
Last year, he was able to slash .271/.320/.486, to go along with 19 home runs and 17 stolen bases. However, it was sported by an unsustainable .363 BABIP as he slumped back to a slash line of .227/.287/.357 this year with just six homers, though he did manage to swipe 26 bases.
Some will blame the poor season on his inconsistent playing time, given the team’s outfield got crowded when Juan Soto came up. However, his figures from the season are almost identical to what he’s done in previous years.
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Although the outfield picture could become less crowded in the offseason, depending on how the team handles Bryce Harper, Taylor’s best case scenario is as a fourth outfielder. Juan Soto is a virtual lock, Victor Robles will be in centerfield barring a shock trade and Adam Eaton would step into right field if Harper leaves.
If Harper stays, Taylor could even be relegated to being the fifth outfielder, and this is why it makes sense to attempt to find a possible new home.
Taylor has two years of arbitration remaining on his current deal, so financially he can be an appealing proposition to someone willing to start him. He could either be an extended bridge to a prospect who is a few years away, or a team could even lock him in as the centerfielder of the future if they have a strong enough lineup to plug him in at the bottom.
Someone like the Detroit Tigers, who have no clear plan in center moving forward, could make some sense. As could the Chicago White Sox who have a fair wait for Luis Robert to be major league ready as their centerfielder. If they do deal him, don’t expect a huge return though, given the lack of leverage the Nationals have.
But back to the Nats, the question then would come down to who replaces Michael Taylor as the fourth outfielder. While none of the options are quite as good as Taylor, they’re close enough that it’s worth saving the money, while capitalizing given that he still has some value.
Andrew Stevenson would appear to be next in line. Stevenson has looked much more dangerous with the bat in 2018 after working with Kevin Long last offseason. He at least showed some promise as a nice left-handed bat off the bench, which is where he’d be used most frequently, but he’s long been regarded as a near-elite defender in any outfield spot.
The other option would be another player we saw briefly this season, Rafael Bautista. Another strong defender in centerfield, Bautista was having a strong year at Triple-A while slashing .366/.395/.463 in 2018. His speed is his best tool, with 239 minor league steals in just 537 games, which would be a huge boost to the Nats bench.
Unfortunately, it looks like the Washington Nationals and Michael Taylor could be heading for a split in the near future. It’s just a numbers game unfortunately, and MAT will likely be the odd one out.