Twins get OF Taylor in deal with Royals

January 24th, 2023

MINNEAPOLIS -- The stove is still hot for the very active Twins, who addressed their need for right-handed outfield depth by acquiring former Gold Glove-winning center fielder from the Royals on Monday in exchange for Minor League relievers Evan Sisk and Steven Cruz.

Taylor doesn’t provide an impact bat, as he had a .670 OPS in 2022, but his role is important as right-handed insurance for , whose injury history has been well-documented. Taylor should be an immediate depth upgrade over youngster , who posted a .615 OPS while forced into considerable action (122 games) last season.

Twins receive: OF Michael A. Taylor
Royals receive: RHP Steven Cruz (Twins' No. 28 prospect), LHP Evan Sisk

The 31-year-old Taylor was a standout in all phases on defense for the Royals, finishing in at least the Majors’ 75th percentile in Outs Above Average (OAA), Arm Strength (ARM) and Jump, per Statcast.

Taylor is in the final year of a two-year, $9 million contract and provides the Twins with a right-handed option to mix and match in center field if Buxton were to go down, with the left-handed hitting Joey Gallo and Nick Gordon also in the fray. Considering how much the Twins like to platoon, Taylor’s .722 career OPS against lefties could be a significant consideration, even as a corner-outfield option or late-game defensive replacement when Buxton is healthy.

This deal further crowds an already packed outfield situation, with Buxton, Gallo, Gordon, Max Kepler, Alex Kirilloff, Trevor Larnach, Matt Wallner, Celestino, Taylor and even Kyle Farmer serving as potential options to roam the grass. With Luis Arraez having been traded away, Kirilloff and Gallo could factor more heavily at first base -- though that could negate Gallo’s defensive value -- while several could rotate through at DH.

With the Twins potentially needing bullpen depth, they could still seek to deal from this outfield depth as well, with Kepler’s name having continued to appear in trade rumors throughout the offseason.

One thing is clear, though: In its current form, between Buxton, Kepler, Gallo and Taylor, this has the potential to be one of the Twins’ best defensive outfields in just about any configuration, with four Gold Gloves between them and Kepler’s exemplary Statcast metrics in the field. That could be a boon in particular to Joe Ryan and Tyler Mahle, who generate higher than average rates of fly balls.

On paper, this is a depth move that won’t be hugely prominent on the national radar -- but it has the potential to be a very important one for the Twins. Consider that Celestino, Jake Cave and Mark Contreras combined for 585 plate appearances last season due to the Twins’ outfield injuries, or that Cave, Celestino and Rob Refsnyder combined for 397 plate appearances in 2021.

Due to the health considerations for Buxton and the pockmarked injury histories of Kirilloff and Larnach, the outfield depth has played an outsized role in recent Twins history -- and Taylor could bring some veteran stability there.

In exchange, the Twins dealt a pair of unpolished relief prospects in Cruz and Sisk, both of whom had intriguing potential in the high Minors but struggled with their control.

Cruz, at 6-foot-7 with a huge fastball, peaked at Double-A Wichita, but he struggled with walks. Sisk was one of the Twins’ more intriguing bullpen options at Triple-A St. Paul due to his sidearm left-handed delivery with an extreme crossfire motion -- but his big strikeout rate was also dampened by control issues and very pronounced platoon splits. He was originally acquired in the J.A. Happ deal with the Cardinals at the 2021 Trade Deadline.