Michael A. Taylor, Washington Nationals
Full disclosure, my mother-in-law is obsessed with Michael A. Taylor. She is a DMV-residing, late-to-baseball obsessive. As she’s come to love and follow the Nats over the last few seasons, her heart has set itself – for a reason I can’t totally explain – on her precious Michael A.
His first full season in the big leagues was 2015, a full four years after the first World Series I can remember watching in her home. I can’t say unequivocally that the thrilling Cardinals v. Rangers seven game title bout of 2011 turned her onto baseball, but didn’t it?
With the heartbreak potential of a second straight World Series loss for the Rangers, plus Josh Hamilton‘s primetime comeback story, plus the mini-dynasty of the Pujols/Molina Cardinals in its third Series in eight years, plus Adrian Beltre in his first year in Texas, the Cardinals only making the playoffs because of a late-season Atlanta collapse, and most of all, David Freese‘s heroics in games 6 and 7, there was no better evangelist for major league baseball than the 2011 World Series.
It takes some time to get acclimated, however, if you didn’t grow up watching baseball, as, like most games, it’s fairly nonsensical. Regardless, a college education’s worth of time later, it’s 2015 and my mother-in-law is a full-blown faNATic.
She tunes in daily to the local broadcast in Maryland, delighting in her education under the tutelage of FP Santangelo (who is about as good a broadcaster as he was a player). She even – I suspect – forced my father-in-law to become an usher at Nats Park when she ran out of projects to keep him busy during retirement.
It would break my mother-in-law’s heart if the Nationals traded Michael A. to the Dbacks, so I get no pleasure in saying this: there is not a clear path to regular playing time in Washington for Michael A, and it’s time they trade him.
I know you don’t want Michael A. languishing on the bench, Angela! You want to see him play the game we all love so dearly, don’t you? When you love someone, sometimes you have to (trade him to Arizona) let him go. With Juan Soto, Victor Robles, and (barring a Bryce Harper return), Adam Eaton holding down the outfield minutes, there’s no room at the inn.
The Nationals are no doubt looking to compete in a crowded NL East, and a young player like Michael A. – if we’re okay making broad-based unfounded generalizations -is far less capable of managing the emotional rollercoaster that comes with being a backup than a veteran guy like, say, Jarrod Dyson. Taylor has the upside, but Dyson is a better fit for the currents Nats, who could utilize his speed and defense off the bench with appropriate measure.
Sure, Michael A. is a better platoon partner for Soto and Eaton than Dyson because he’s right-handed, but those guys don’t need a platoon partner. They need an occasional breather, and Dyson is more than capable in that regard.
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One could argue that Michael A. better protects the Nationals against a long-term Eaton injury – not at all outside the realm of possibility – but is that true? Outside of one monster .216 ISO season, Michael A. has largely been a plus defender who struggles mightily to make contact at the plate without hitting for much power.
His strikeout rate has exceeded 30% in each of his first five seasons (not good). His walk rate falls between 5.9% and 7.5%, leaving little at all to like about his offensive profile. His career slash line is an unimpressive .239/.293/.395 over a not-small sample of 1608 plate appearances.
Still, my gut says my mother-in-law is onto something. I’d like to see if the security of an everyday job helps Michael A. cultivate a more measured approach at the plate, potentially tapping into the power he flexed in 2017. He’s not getting that kind of security in Washington.
The other consideration – and this is no small thing – Michael A. has a lesser acquisition cost than other centerfielders on this list. He’s a good baserunner and, as a sound defender in center, he makes for a good third piece to the Marte/Flores rotation between second and center.
The right answer, probably, isn’t to trade for my mother-in-law’s favorite player. But frankly, it’s hard to tell what’s driving the Diamondbacks’ decision-making this winter.