KANSAS CITY -- Newly signed Royals outfielder Michael A. Taylor will get every shot at being the everyday center fielder, general manager Dayton Moore said in a Zoom call Monday.
Taylor, 29, signed a one-year deal for $1.75 million, a source confirmed to MLB.com. He became a free agent in October after seven seasons with the Nationals.
“I think there is still some untapped potential there [with Taylor],” Moore said. “I think he’d be the first to tell you he hasn’t been as consistent as he’d like. But he’s been a part of championship teams. He has speed and power.”
Taylor, part of the Nationals’ World Series championship team in 2019, has not been the same offensive player since his breakout season in '17 during which he collected 19 home runs, 53 RBIs, an .806 OPS and 17 steals. He hit .227 with six home runs in 134 games in '18, and in '20, he hit a career-low .196 in 38 games.
More concerning is Taylor’s high strikeout percentage (31.4), well above the MLB average of 21.6.
“He understands the importance of improving his swing and miss,” Moore said. “But he’s a terrific athlete and very intelligent. He’s a guy that [manager] Mike Matheny and [bench coach] Pedro Grifol and all of our scouts recommended ... and we wanted to add to our outfield depth, get more starting pitching and add an impact bat or two for the middle of the lineup.
“Mike makes out the lineup. But we’re going to give Michael Taylor a lot of opportunity to play every day. We expect Michael Taylor to get the first crack at that.”
Taylor said in a Zoom call that cutting down on his strikeouts was priority No. 1. He said he was working on a swing change, as well as altering his approach at the plate.
“Putting the ball in play earlier in the count is one way,” he said. “I get to too many two-strike counts. Shortening up my swing, and not trying to hit the long ball on every at-bat. Cutting down on strikeouts is a huge thing.”
Taylor is a career .237 hitter with 53 home runs, 77 stolen bases and a .686 OPS in 574 games, playing primarily center field.
He said he was sold on the Royals very quickly in the process.
“I talked to a few teams,” he said. “But after I talked to Dayton on the phone and Mike on the phone, I knew this is the place I’d like to be.
“I think just after the phone calls, the culture they have over there is special, and as a player, you want to be where a team wants you.”
And Moore covets defense first in his center fielders. The Royals have Edward Olivares, Nick Heath, Bubba Starling, Franchy Cordero and Whit Merrifield as possible center fielders as well.
“Physically, it’s a big outfield [at Kauffman Stadium],” Taylor said, “and I love playing defense, and I think I can help out on the field.”
To make room for Taylor, the Royals designated left-hander Foster Griffin for assignment. The 25-year-old Griffin made his Major League debut for Kansas City on July 27 and pitched 1 2/3 scoreless innings in his only appearance of the season.
Griffin had Tommy John surgery in 2019, and his DFA was somewhat expected.
The Royals will have to clear more space on the 40-man roster, which is full, as they prepare for the upcoming Rule 5 Draft on Dec. 10. Kansas City also needs room for left-hander Mike Minor, who isn’t officially signed but has agreed to a two-year deal, sources told MLB.com.
Moore hinted more moves are on the way.
“It's likely that we move on from certain players because their financial expectation doesn't align with what we can do in other areas based on this market,” Moore said. “So we're looking at that. I don't know how it will unfold, but we're looking at different things.”