Sign Michael A. Taylor
Projected 2024 Salary: $4.75 million
The last and final player that would fit within our budget constraint is Michael A. Taylor. Taylor is coming off a relatively solid season with the Minnesota Twins as a platoon center fielder. His calling card is his center field defense, but he can also hit some home runs, two things that would greatly benefit the Pirates.
Last season, Taylor batted .220/.278/.442 with a .308 wOBA, and 96 wRC+. The only thing of value Taylor brought was power, as he hit 21 home runs and had a .223 isolated slugging percentage. But that came at the cost of a mediocre 6.7% walk rate and a strikeout rate of a hair over one-third (33.5%). But with his defensive prowess, you'll take that kind of hitting.
Taylor has major LH-RH splits. When he faced a right-hander this year, he only batted for a 75 wRC+. He still had a respectable .171 isolated slugging percentage, but that's about where the positives end for his production against right-handed pitchers. However, when he faced a left-hander, he had a 146 wRC+ and a .350 isolated slugging percentage.
Taylor nearly matched a career-high in barrel rate at 13.5%, with his single-season career best being 13.8%. His underlying numbers, like his expected BA, expected SLG%, and xwOBA, also suggest he didn't under or overperform his numbers last season.
Taylor racked up +5 defensive runs saved and +8 outs above average. This was a down year for him, believe it or not. Over the course of the last three seasons, Taylor has +43 DRS and +21 OAA. Taylor has the most DRS by a CF by ten runs and is tied with Harrison Bader for the most outs above average in this three-season span as well.
I think something the Pirates could take advantage of is offering Taylor a more regular role on a team that wants to compete next year. Most teams may see him as more of a platoon or 4th outfielder than a full-time regular. He has pretty drastic splits, and he shared center field with Joey Gallo and Willi Castro, both of whom have strong splits against RHP. A $4.75 million salary is a $250,000 uptick from his 2023 salary. It gives the Pirates an outfielder who can hit some home runs and deliver outstanding defense up the middle.