Michael A. Taylor fills big need for Padres at right price

Mandatory Credit: Matt Blewett-USA TODAY Sports

Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

The Padres desperately need proven outfielders. Center field is a big hole after Trent Grisham was shipped to New York. Could Michael A. Taylor be a fit?

In case you have been living under a rock, the San Diego Padres need outfielders after trading away one of the best pure hitters of his generation and a two-time Gold Glover out of two starting outfield spots. That is Juan Soto and Trent Grisham, respectively.

Fernando Tatis Jr. can’t man all three outfield spots at once (although he could probably fare better than most in that endeavor). While the Padres hope some prospects (Jakob Marsee, Tirso Ornelas) and non-roster invitees (Cal Mitchell, Oscar Mercado) can play well and snag jobs, banking on that is not exactly conducive to starting the season strong towards a run to the postseason.

Quite simply, the outfield lacks proven talent and experience in San Diego.

Michael A. Taylor could be the man for the job.

His defensive prowess is beyond reproach. Since the start of 2021, there is not a single outfielder in Major League Baseball with more Defensive Runs Saved than Taylor’s 43. In fact, the next closest is Steven Kwan, with 31.

His Outs Above Average and Arm Strength score, per Baseball Savant, were both 90th percentile or better last season. He has basically played an elite defensive centerfield for the better part of eight seasons on three teams. Pairing him with Platinum Glove Award winner Tatis would make for one of the better defensive outfields in baseball or at least two-thirds of one.

Now, the Padres are rumored to be interested in the Gold Glove centerfielder.

Of course, there is no question about his defense. It’s his bat that leads to some fans scoffing at the idea of bringing him in. However, he saw an uptick in offensive production last season. He set career a high in homers (21). His 94 OPS+ and .720 OPS are better than what the Padres got from the centerfield spot last year, with Grisham’s 87 and .666 marks, respectively.

His barrel rate was in the 88th percentile, while Grisham’s was 77th.

Taylor produced virtually the same WAR (1.9) in 129 games for the Twins last season as Grisham did in 153 games for San Diego. He is also a quality baserunner and a threat to steal. Not to mention, he was a key part of the 2019 World Series champion Nationals, hitting a homer in his lone at-bat of the series against the Astros. He has a career .861 OPS in 21 career playoff games.

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Playoff experience never hurts.

Plus, it’s not like the Padres will need to rely solely on Taylor having a career year at the plate. One would assume that typical seasons from Manny Machado, Tatis, and Xander Bogaerts atop the lineup, Taylor fits in nicely nearly the bottom with a near-average bat.

Now, the million dollar question or, how many millions? What is the limit for the Padres in spending on Taylor’s services?

Given that the Padres are already close to where they want to be payroll-wise for 2024, it’s likely not much. Spotrac and FanGraphs both agree Taylor should merit around $7 million per season. That is likely too rich for the Padres, as that is as much as they are paying Ha-Seong Kim for much more production. Taylor isn’t prolific enough at the plate to garner that figure from Preller.

However, if the market grows stale, the Padres should pounce. Something closer to $4-5 million per season is much more palatable. He made $4.6 million last season in Minnesota. That would be an ideal number. After all, Taylor is a bona fide elite defensive centerfielder with 20-homer power and plenty of MLB experience. If the Padres can get him for a bargain price, he is exactly what the Padres need.

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