The KC Royals and new General Manager J.J. Picollo didn’t wait until the offseason to make an offseason-like move Wednesday. In the process, they answered one of the club’s biggest 2022 roster questions.
Center fielder Michael A. Taylor, signed only to a one-year contract set to expire after this season, will return in 2022. The Royals announced a new two-year deal for Taylor this afternoon.
Taylor’s new contract all but assures he’ll start in center next year. Speculation has swirled around the position for months as media and fans alike wondered whether the value of Taylor’s stellar glove could, in the club’s eyes, outweigh his weaker bat.
The glove won out Wednesday. BaseballSavant rates Taylor as tied with St. Louis’ Harrison Bader for the major league lead in Runs Prevented and Outs Above Average, while FanGraphs gives him the big league lead in Defensive Runs Saved. His fielding percentage is .991 and he’s made only three errors this season.
Through Monday’s games, Taylor is slashing .244/.298/.359; his average and OBP are both five points better than his eight-year major league career average. With five games left in the season, his 12 home runs are seven less than his two career highs—19 in 2017 and 14 in 2015.
Taylor, 30, does have 24 multi-hit games in 2021, has collected three hits four times, and driven in three runs five times. His current 2.7 WAR ties the career best he established over 118 games in 2017.
Although the KC Royals didn’t disclose the financial details of Taylor’s new deal, FanSided’s Robert Murray, citing a source, says the two-season deal is worth at least $9 million:
Taylor’s signing leaves the KC Royals with two remaining outfield questions.
Bring back Taylor for at least the near future doesn’t eliminate the need for Kansas City to stabilize its outfield.
Left fielder Andrew Benintendi is under team control through next year, and his hot August and September make him a virtual lock for a contract tender, or possibly an early extension. But uncertainty still clouds the right field picture.
Current Royals who might take right field for their own in 2022 include rookie Kyle Isbel, who’s hitting .268 in 26 games; Hunter Dozier, whose $25 million contract means he’ll play somewhere for Kansas City next season; and Edward Olivares, although the club clearly isn’t entirely comfortable with him. What the Royals do with a sure to be crowded infield situation will determine whether Whit Merrifield moves to right.
For now, though, at least center field has been decided.
Michael A. Taylor will be back in center field next season for the Royals.