In the last few years, the Dodgers made a habit of acquiring superstars from hopeless teams. In 2021, they picked up Max Scherzer and Trea Turner from a Nationals team that struggled to gain a foothold in the NL East. In 2020, Boston dealt Mookie Betts to LA rather than try to keep the face of the franchise around. In 2018, the Dodgers picked up Manny Machado for an ill-fated World Series run. But perhaps the most important trade of this dominant run was the Chris Taylor trade.
Since coming to Los Angeles in 2016, Taylor accrued 14.8 rWAR. That’s a 3.6 win pace for every 162 games, which is a great mark for any hitter, but that undersells the hidden value Taylor supplies by playing all over the diamond. With Taylor on the roster, the Dodgers could breathe a little easier if someone got hurt, but now, that’s a luxury afforded to any team that wants to pay him.
The Dodgers extended Taylor a qualifying offer, and the All-Star will likely reject it. That doesn’t preclude a reunion, but Taylor is going to be highly sought-after. If the Dodgers can’t bring him back, then the Dodger outfield is going to look weaker than it has in years. Not that it will look bad per se, but lack of outfield depth is one of the reasons the Dodgers lost the NL West for the first time since 2012.
Betts is still great, of course, but things get iffy after that. Cody Bellinger fell into a crater this year, and he was trending down before that. Though he started to look like his old self in the playoffs, it’s no guarantee he’ll keep that going into 2022. AJ Pollock is coming off his best season since 2015. He’ll also be 34 next year, and he didn’t manage to stay all healthy all year. The Dodgers will need to pick up someone that can play center with or without a Bellinger resurrection.
Because Taylor can play just about anywhere, just about anyone will be interested. He’s an obvious fit with the Giants, who both value defensive versatility and plate discipline. President of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi was the general manager of the Dodgers when LA snatched Taylor from Seattle after all. The Giants don’t appear likely to re-sign Kris Bryant, and Taylor would easily fill his spot on the roster.
The Mariners don’t have any plans to move JP Crawford off shortstop, but someone like Taylor supplies backup while providing options at second and third and in the outfield. With Jarred Kelenic, Mitch Haniger, Kyle Lewis, and possibly Julio Rodríguez coming up in 2022, Taylor’s presence would be felt more in the infield where he has a longer record of success than Abraham Toro or Dylan Moore.
Detroit reportedly reached out to Taylor and fellow former Dodger Corey Seager. The Tigers are on the cusp of contention with some promising young arms in the rotation and Spencer Torkelson ready to take over first in 2022. An active winter could easily put them in the playoff hunt. It’s not hard to think of a spot for Taylor on the Tigers roster.
Taylor will have no trouble finding offers even with the qualifying offer attached. Players with his versatility and capability at the plate are rare, so a multi-year deal isn’t out of the question.
Kenny Kelly is the managing editor of Beyond the Box Score.