WASHINGTON -- The Nationals won their arbitration case with outfielder Michael A. Taylor and will pay him $3.25 million for the 2019 season, a source confirmed to MLB.com on Friday. The team has not commented.
Taylor, who was in his second year of arbitration eligibility, had requested a salary of $3.5 million. Despite the relatively small gap ($250,000) between the two sides, the Nationals took him to trial in Florida on Thursday. It marked the first time the Nationals have gone to a hearing since 2015, and they will do so again with right-handed reliever Kyle Barraclough in the coming days. Barraclough reportedly filed at $2 million, while the Nats offered $1.725 million.
Taylor, who will turn 28 in March, began the 2018 season as the Opening Day center fielder, but he took a step back in his development. He found it difficult to find playing time toward the end of the year. In 134 games, Taylor was worth 0.9 Wins Above Replacement, according to FanGraphs, and posted a slash line of .227/.287/.357, with a 30.1 percent strikeout rate.
With Juan Soto, Adam Eaton and Victor Robles -- MLB Pipeline's No. 4 overall prospect -- on the roster, Taylor figures to slot in as the club's fourth outfielder, and one with potential that can still be unlocked. As a prospect, the team touted Taylor as a potential five-tool player, and during his breakout 2017 season, he hit 19 home runs and was worth 3.1 WAR in 118 games. The Nationals still believe Taylor has the tools to be an everyday player, and they think he could win a Gold Glove Award in the future as a center fielder.
However, Taylor's strikeout rate is concerning to the team, and hitting coach Kevin Long spent the second half of the year trying to revamp his swing to make more contact while not sacrificing any of his power. The Nats even sent Taylor to play winter ball in the Dominican Republic to get more reps with that new swing.
Still, the Nationals did not try and shop Taylor in the trade market this winter because they wanted him as insurance for an outfield consisting of the unproven Robles and the oft-injured Eaton.