Dodgers: Is Chris Taylor pricing himself out of Los Angeles?

Los Angeles Dodgers slugger Chris Taylor is an All-Star. There’s just no way around it unless he endures one of the worst slumps you’ve ever seen over the next few weeks.

He’s been good for a 1.8 WAR thus far, picking up the slack for other struggling hitters such as Cody Bellinger and Mookie Betts. Those two were supposed to be the focal point of the Dodgers’ offense.

Instead, it’s Taylor leading the way in runs, RBI and batting average. His OPS is only behind Max Muncy’s.

He’s been a reliable defender all across the diamond while filling in for injured sluggers like Betts, Bellinger, Corey Seager and AJ Pollock.

In fact, he’s played six different positions in 2021: all three outfield spots, second base, shortstop and third base. His overall DRS of -2 doesn’t exactly give him Gold Glove honors, but he’s holding down the fort each and every night when he’s asked to undertake a new assignment, and his bat hasn’t suffered in the slightest.

How many other guys that get bounced around on defense end up struggling at the plate? The answer is a fair amount. Look at Yankees slugger DJ LeMahieu this year.

Chris Taylor is becoming a premier player for the Los Angeles Dodgers.

The bottom line is that this has all the makings of a career season for Taylor … in his contract year. And that complicates things for the Dodgers, with so much money on the books, plus the need to extend guys like Bellinger, Clayton Kershaw, Corey Seager and perhaps Kenley Jansen, depending on how he finishes the year.

Do the Dodgers view Taylor as irreplaceable? Or do they think Zach McKinstry can fill in once Taylor’s time in LA is up?

McKinstry has shown flashes, but Taylor is propping up the Dodgers’ offense right now. It’s not comparable.

As for his clutch stats? Taylor is slashing .315/.403/.537 with runners in scoring position and .295/.415/.568 in “high leverage” situations.

Money isn’t a “thing” for the Dodgers, but they do spend it wisely. We’re not saying Taylor isn’t a good investment, but he’s entering a gray area of his career. He’ll be 31 next year. What kind of extension would he warrant with two lone very impressive seasons at this point in his career?

The Dodgers already gave Betts a 12-year extension, which kicked in during his age-28 season. They’re paying Turner over $11 million per season on average through at least 2022. Trevor Bauer and David Price will make a combined $61 million in 2022. The front office clearly “went for it” in 2021. Will they do the same next year?

Another contender might find it worthwhile in their payroll to steal Taylor from LA with a big-money contract. We’re just unsure if the Dodgers will match or exceed whatever else is out there for the former fifth-round pick due to all the complications surrounding their roster, window and payroll.