Much ink has already been spilled, or pixels illuminated, about the upcoming offseason and the superclass of shortstops. Even though the Mets extended Francisco Lindor and took one of the most intriguing names out of the pool, it’s still going to feature such marquee names as Carlos Correa, Corey Seager, Trevor Story, Javier Baez and Marcus Semien. But there’s one name that’s also on the list that is sometimes overlooked. If you’ve read the headline to this piece, then you already know I’m talking about Chris Taylor.
Perhaps the reason Taylor doesn’t quite fit in with the rest of that group is that he’s not exactly an everyday shortstop like the rest of them. (Semien has been playing mostly second base this year, but only because of the presence of Bo Bichette next to him. He could very easily return to shortstop duty with a new club next season.) Taylor is more of a utility guy who is capable of playing some shortstop, if needed. He’s appeared at the position in each of the past eight seasons, but never more than 81 games. Also, he reached that number back in 2018. In 2019, that number dropped to 39. In the shortened 2020 season, it was 20 games, exactly one third of the 60-game reduced schedule. This year, it’s only been 22 games so far. The fact that he’s not considered an everyday option is at least somewhat borne out by statistics. To give one example, of the 46 players to log at least 1000 innings at shortstop over the past five years, Taylor’s UZR/150 of -7.5 ranks 43rd, in the vicinity of guys who don’t play at short much anymore, such as Aledmys Diaz and Manny Machado.
Still, even though he’s not an everyday option, he has versatility, which is something teams love. Taylor has also played second base, third base and all three outfield positions this year, meaning that he could conceivably be plugged into the lineup of any team in the league and move around to their area of greatest need. That could potentially give him tremendous leverage in free agency this winter, just as it did for Ben Zobrist six years ago. Zobrist was able to use that vast market to net himself a four-year, $56MM contract with the Cubs in December of 2015. Could Chris Taylor get something like that? Well, let’s compare.
For starters, Taylor will have a distinct advantage over Zobrist in one category: age. Zobrist was set to turn 35 in May of 2016, shortly after making his Cubs debut. Taylor just turned 31 two weeks ago. Taylor will be 3 1/2 years younger while on the market this winter than Zobrist was back in 2015, meaning a team could potentially be willing to put an even longer contract in front of Taylor.