When the Los Angeles Dodgers traded for Miguel Rojas, fans were asking tons of questions. Does this kick Gavin Lux out of the starting shortstop role? How does this affect the bench? The second base situation? Hey, what about the outfield?
Before the trade, many fans penciled in Lux as the starting shortstop and some combination of Chris Taylor/Max Muncy at second base as well as Muncy/Miguel Vargas at third base. After the trade, there was speculation of Taylor and/or Vargas getting some more outfield reps in the event Rojas started at short and Lux was moved to second.
Nobody knows for sure at this point, but one Dodgers insider says Taylor will be logging most of his reps in the outfield -- most likely center field -- for the 2023 season. And LA fans might not feel all that confident with such a plan.
Here's the latest from Fabian Ardaya of The Athletic in his recent mailbag:
"I don’t see the Dodgers trading Taylor, mostly because his value is depressed coming off a down 2022 season. The Rojas trade crystalized Taylor’s role a bit. While he may still be at second base on occasion, he’s going to be mostly an outfielder, and he might be the surest option for the Dodgers in center field."- Fabian Ardaya of The Athletic
Is Taylor, who's entering his age-32 season (but turns 33 in August) and coming off a broken foot and dealing with a neck injury, truly the best option to man the second most important position on the field? And how drastic of a downgrade is this from Cody Bellinger?
Speaking of Bellinger, the Dodgers didn't want to pay him ~$18 million for Gold Glove-caliber defense, but are content being stuck with Taylor's $15 million AAV deal despite the fact he's been dreadful offensively since the second half of 2021? Not a knock on Taylor, either. His versatility and clutch hitting earned him that contract, but he's a career .256 hitter with a .765 OPS and 105 OPS+. He has just 87 extra-base hits and 116 RBI over the last two years. Bellinger, for as disheartening as his bat's been since the start of 2021, has 70 extra-base hits and 104 RBI over that same span in 27 fewer games. Taylor also strikes out at a horrific 28.6% rate, and logged a career-worst 35.2% in 2022 compared to Belli's 23.2% rate and 27.3% career worst.
The Dodgers don't really have a choice because Taylor's trade value is at an all-time low and nobody is taking on the three years and $45 million left on his deal. But not running it back with Bellinger and willingly downgrading the outfield defense with this plan instead of using Taylor as a luxurious utility option could prove to be a massive mistake in 2023.