Washington Nationals: Should The Nats Sign Chris Taylor?
By Max Rayman
Washington enters the upcoming off-season with a glaring hole on the left side of their infield and questions in center. Veteran Alcides Escobar who held down shortstop last year was brought back on a one-year deal, but he is viewed as just a stopgap. Former top prospect Carter Kieboom is currently at third, but the 24-year old struggled once again last season and is running out of chances.
In center, similar to Kieboom, Victor Robles was originally seen as the long-term answer, but since his strong rookie season in 2019, he has quickly regressed. Newcomer Lane Thomas supplanted him by the end of the 2021 season, but he may be more of a fourth outfielder. If the front office no longer views them as part of the new core, they need to make up their minds and fast because the upcoming free-agent class is stacked with high-profile bats.
However, the timing for Washington to splurge is off due to the timing of their rebuild. The rotation which has been their bread and butter through the 2010s is a mess and their top pitching prospects are all 1-2 years away. Not to mention that the bullpen is still a liability.
If Washington isn’t ready to go all-in, then instead they should set their eyes on bolstering their offense with solid role players. One player in particular who can fill that role is Chris Taylor.
There is a league-wide expectation that the 2020 World Series Champ will sign a multi-year deal, north of $14 million a year. For a player of his magnitude, that can be seen as a steal. Chris Taylor may not be able to anchor a lineup, but he provides plenty of lineup stability.
Taylor played the last six years with the Dodgers, hitting .264, with 79 homers, 299 RBIs, and an OPS of .799. After becoming a full-time player and finally coming into his own in 2017, this past year Taylor elevated his game to the next level. With key injuries to Cody Bellinger and Corey Seager, Taylor helped keep the offense afloat, slashing .254/344/.438.
He was named to his first All-Star game and finished the season with 20 homers and 73 RBIs. A major part of Taylor’s success at the plate came from switching his approach. Taylor lowered his ground ball rate (35.5% ground ball rate) and started lifting the ball more (32.3% fly-ball rate). He also posted a career-high in barrel rate and hard-hit percentage (2020 notwithstanding) (10.2%) (38.1%).
Since Howie Kendrick retired, the Nats have lacked a player they can plug into all over the diamond. That’s where Taylor comes in. Defensively, Taylor can play all over the diamond, having spent time at second, short, third, and all three outfield spots. He’s logged over 1,000 innings at short, left, and center, and over 700 innings at second.
Similar to Kendrick, Taylor possesses the clutch factor. In this year’s Wild Card Game against the Cardinals, he hit the walk-off homer to send the Dodgers to the NLDS. In the next round, LA was facing a 3-1 series deficit and Taylor single handily forced Game 6, crushing three homers.
For the Nationals. Taylor would provide lineup stability and the ability to handle multiple positions. At the same time, his contract demands wouldn’t be crippling. For a team trying to speed up their rebuild and return to prevalence, signing Turner would go a long way.