Utility is Gold, All in with Taylor

One of the things that has made the Dodgers such a competitive team these past couple of years has been their depth. They have made some moves over the past couple of years that have helped to put the current team where they are. Whether it was a breakout year from Muncy, Taylor or a great contribution from Kike. It seems that Friedman has figured out a formula for picking up important pieces. Remember that Austin Barnes also arrived via trade with Kike. Friedman has shown a tendency to fill up gaps with players mentioned. Remember that Turner was also picked up this way when his time was up with the Mets. What a great pick up he turned out to be over the past 7 years for the Dodgers. There is a lot of talk about the big contracts that await to be negotiated in the future. There is talk of the obvious ones coming up: Seager and Kershaw at the end of 2021, and Bellinger in 2024 and Buehler in 2025. Seager, Bellinger, Kershaw, and Buehler are the stars awaiting a negotiations. Fans assume that those contracts will be here with the Dodgers and I concur. They should be here. Unfortunately, it is a business and it is never final until the contract is signed. With all the hoopla, there is one contract that is being taken lightly and has been just as important to the Dodgers’ success. Chris Taylor has been a huge piece to the Dodgers success since the 2017 World Series run began. So in this article I will make the argument that the Dodgers should extend Chris Taylor’s contract for 3 more years after 2021, to ensure that this team stays intact with important pieces in place, regardless of what happens in the offseason after the 2021 season. I will make a strong case for an early Chris Taylor extension. His contract ends at the end of the 2021 season and I say, “why wait?”

Chris Taylor had a couple of bad years with the Seattle Mariners. He was Heaven sent to the Dodgers when he arrived in LA. In his first full season with the Dodgers in 2017, he helped elevate the Dodgers to a new level and was a big part as to why we went to the World Series that year. In 2017, he jumped onto the scene with 148 base hits and batted .288 batting average with an on base percentage of .354. His WAR in 2017 was 4.5. You may not be too familiar with WAR and what that means today, but keep in mind that Justin Turner finished up that same season 9th in the NL with WAR at 5.6. I am not comparing the two players at all, that is not the purpose of this article. The purpose of that comparison is to show that Taylor scored a 4.5 WAR as a utility player. It is actually pretty amazing when you think about it. It is a pretty amazing accomplishment when you have a utility player that can play 2nd, SS, LF, CF, 3B or RF on any given night and put up the offensive numbers that he put up that year. Kike put up a WAR of 1.1 in limited playing time that same year. Dodgers went on to lose in 2017 in the World Series to the cheating Astros but it is easy to see why they got there.

Fast forward to 2020 and a quick look at the WAR numbers for Turner, Kike, and Taylor and I will throw in Bellinger and Seager to the mix as well just for comparison. Obviously the WAR numbers were down this year due to the shortened season and they were down proportionately across the league. Here is the WAR numbers for each player:

WAR/ OPS numbers

Kike= 0.9/ .680

Turner= 1.3/ .860

Seager=1.9/ .943

Taylor=1.8/ .842

Bellinger=1.4/ .789

WAR and OPS are not the only numbers to look at when comparing players, but I guarantee that the front office looks at this stat as a way to see the impact players had on their teams.

As you can see Taylor has made a huge impact filling in the gaps here and there and whenever he has been asked to fill in, he has done so nicely. Does he have slumps? Of course, it is baseball. Slumps are expected. However, it is hard to argue against the numbers. Taylor has been a crucial piece to the Dodgers success in the past and if they plan on maintaining this depth, I am arguing that Taylor’s contract be extended now. Do not wait for the 2021 season to come around. Extend his contract for 3 more years past the 2021 season and lock him in through the 2024 season. Perhaps throw in a mutual option for 2023 but lock in the depth. Here is what locking him in does for your sanity. It clears up your peace of mind for the 2021 season. Remember that 2021, you will be dealing with the Kershaw and Seager buzz. If we extend him now, we can eliminate Taylor being part of that buzz. I feel that Taylor will be happy to receive an extension through 2024 given the big opportunity the Dodgers have given him. Sure, he can test the market after the 2021 season but there is no guarantee that he has a good 2021 season, and it could be a gamble for him to wait. He may lose money. The Dodgers should negotiate a 3-year extension between 25Million and 30Million. He is currently set to make 7.8 Million for 2021, so in essence, if he gets 30Million for 3 additional years the Dodgers would owe him 37.8Million for the next 4 years. Like I said, he can test the market but there are no guarantees that he gets an offer that good. A lot will depend on how well he does in 2021, but then he is also playing with fire because the Dodgers can just as easily trade him. He sort of becomes trade bait. Does he want to go through with that? Perhaps the Dodgers can get the extension done for far for less? Not sure about that, but I do know that Taylor is a deal that needs to happen and one that has not come up because he is not a free agent this year, but next. You can take a look at history to see how many players have been traded on their walk years, for one reason or another. There was Mookie Betts recently and Manny Machado. Both elite players. So, it does not matter  that this might offend you to state that Taylor might get traded, the fact is that it is a business and it happens. It would not surprise me if it did happen, especially after seeing the Red Sox part with their MVP. If Betts being traded did not surprise you, you must not be from this world. The bottom line is this, “LOCK HIM UP THROUGH 2024!”

Here is why, you should not expect Kike to be resigned. I really like Kike and I feel that he played the same role as Taylor did for the same period. Although Taylor had a great 2017, and a good 2020, that were both better than Kike, one cannot argue that Kike has been just as fruitful as Taylor in the same span and overall in his career in a similar role as utility. Career WAR for Taylor is 12.3 and Kike’s is 10.6. Kike has hit 71 HRs, to Taylor’s 59. Taylor’s career OPS is .779 to Kike’s .738. Taylor’s career average is .263 to Kike’s .240. Taylor OBP career .335 to Kike’s .313. The numbers dictate that Taylor has slightly higher numbers across the board.

The argument I make here is that Kike has also been a big piece to the Dodgers’ success. At one point second base belonged to Kike but he struggled on offense as an everyday player and that seemed to end as soon as it started. The problem for the Dodgers is that Kike might cost them a bit more than what they are willing to spend. His 2020 salary was 5.9 Million. It is easy to see that he will ask at least for an average of 7 million per year and will want a multiple year contract. Perhaps 21 Million for 3 years? I am sure he will want 4 or 5, but given the uncertainty of live baseball in 2021, 2 or 3 years might be reasonable. Do the Dodgers lock him in at 3? How about 2 years? Or do they see what Lux has in store for them and save that 21 Million. It seems that this is the more likely solution for them because after all what is the rush? They just won a championship. If Lux is given the chance, and he performs, the Dodgers hit pay dirt and strike gold with Lux. If he does not perform, they can trade for a second baseman, or a first baseman and move Muncy to 2B. It might be on their radar to move Pollack to center, Bellinger to first base and Muncy to second base as a backup plan. Or they can give second base to Taylor if the Dodgers decide on Rios to third base. I just do not see how they spend 20 Million on Kike because they have so many options that will cost them less.

To conclude, a Taylor extension ensures a big piece to the team’s puzzle, and ensures a solid player going forward. It makes more sense to do it this year and not next and if it can be done it would be a win-win for both parties. With Taylor, you have an everyday third baseman if you wanted to go that way. Or given that the Dodgers like to use the righty/lefty match-up, they can play Rios at third base when a righty pitches. Same can be done, if they went with Taylor at 2B. 2B can be a rotational position for him and Lux. That is why Taylor is such an important piece and why they should lock him through the 2024 season.

Published by Pete Reyes

Dodger Fan since Fernandomania. I am a baseball aficionado and a former baseball coach. I am father of 3 and I am very proud that our Dodgers finally won the World Series. Follow me for some fun Dodger News and Updates.

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