MINNEAPOLIS – The cooker is still hot for the very active Twins, who addressed their need for right-handed outfield depth by acquiring former Gold Glove-winning midfielder Michael A. Taylor from the Royals on Monday in exchange for Minor League relievers Evan Sisk and Steven Cruz.
Taylor doesn’t deliver an impact bat, as he had a .670 OPS in 2022, but his role is important as right-hander insurance for Byron Buxton, whose injury history is well documented. Taylor should be an instant depth upgrade over youngster Gilberto Celestino, who posted a .615 OPS last season while being forced into significant action (122 games).
Having twins: FROM Michael A. Taylor
Receiving Royals: RHP Steven Cruz (Twins No. 28 prospect), LHP Evan Sisk
Taylor is in the final year of a two-year, $9 million contract, offering the Twins a right-handed option to mix and match in center field should Buxton go down, with left-handed batter Joey Gallo and Nick Gordon also confused. Considering how much the Twins like to platoon, Taylor’s .722 career OPS against left-handers could be an important consideration, even as a corner outfield option or late-game defensive replacement when Buxton is healthy.
This deal supplants an already crowded outfield situation, with Buxton, Gallo, Gordon, Max Kepler, Alex Kirilloff, Trevor Larnach, Matt Wallner, Celestino, Taylor and even Kyle Farmer as possible options to roam the turf. With Luis Arraez traded off, Kirilloff and Gallo could carry more weight at first base – though that could negate Gallo’s defensive value – while several could rotate through at DH.
Since the Twins may need bullpen depth, they could still try to trade from this outfield depth as well, as Kepler’s name continued to appear in trade rumors throughout the offseason.
One thing is clear, though: in its current form, between Buxton, Kepler, Gallo and Taylor, this has the potential to become one of the Twins’ best defensive outfields in virtually any configuration, with four Gold Gloves in between and Kepler’s exemplary Statcast statistics in the field. That could be a particular boon for Joe Ryan and Tyler Mahle, who generate above-average flyballs.
On paper, this is a depth move that won’t be hugely prominent on the national radar, but it has the potential to be a very important move for the Twins. Recall that Celestino, Jake Cave and Mark Contreras combined for 585 at bats last season due to the Twins’ outfield injuries, or Cave, Celestino and Rob Refsnyder combined for 397 at bats in 2021.
Due to the health concerns for Buxton and Kirilloff and Larnach’s pockmarked injury history, outfield depth has played an inordinate role in recent Twins history – and Taylor could bring some veteran stability there.
In return, the Twins shared a pair of unpolished assist prospects in Cruz and Sisk, both of whom had intriguing potential in the high Minors but struggled with their control.
Cruz, at 6-foot-7 with a huge fastball, peaked at Double-A Wichita, but he struggled on walks. Sisk was one of the Twins’ more intriguing bullpen options at Triple-A St. Paul due to his left-handed sidearm throw with an extreme crossfire move – but his big hit rate was also tempered by control issues and very pronounced platoon splits. He was originally acquired in the JA Happ deal with the Cardinals on the 2021 Trade Deadline.