After a season in which Chris Taylor batted .254/.344/.438, the multi-position utilityman, as expected, declined a qualifying offer from the Los Angeles Dodgers and is now a free agent. The Chicago Cubs have depth issues all over the diamond and Taylor could be an instant solution – but pulling it off won’t be easy for Jed Hoyer and the front office.
Will he come cheap? No. But given his versatility, you can look at it more as a ‘two birds with one stone’ scenario, shoring up both the infield and outfield depth in one move. Instead of paying the piper for both a shortstop and another outfielder, you receive the luxury of being able to plug and play a guy like Taylor in multiple roles, saving dollars in the process, which can then be spent on other needs, such as the starting rotation.
At the plate, Taylor is a career .261/.337/.443 hitter since entering the league in 2014 and earned his first All-Star nod this season after a brilliant July in which he batted .333/.369/.619 over 105 at-bats. He smashed seven long balls and drove in 20 during that stretch.
This isn’t just another guy who can pop 20 homers and drive in 70 runs. He’s far, far more valuable than that. His most valuable attributes, again, come on the defensive side of things. Infield, outfield – it doesn’t matter. He’s a veteran presence of stepping in wherever you need him on a daily basis.
For a club that has a ton of different needs, this is the type of signing that checks the most boxes. Yes, you’re probably going to have to overpay a bit to bring Taylor to Chicago given where the team’s at right now, but you can justify it by knowing he can fill multiple roles on the roster moving forward.
Is signing Taylor the team’s top priority? No. That’s the starting rotation – as it should be. But he’d be a nice prize on the offensive side of the equation, that’s for sure.
Cubs are going to focus on pitching; which is why they need Chris Taylor
Look at some of the teams we saw in October this year. The White Sox, Braves, Astros and Brewers all rode strong pitching in the postseason. The first action item has to be the starting pitching because unless there’s some dramatic transformation, there’s no way this team is competitive come July.
At 4.35 runs per game in 2021, the Cubs offense was far from their biggest issue. Still, they ranked 20th in the league – almost a full run below the game’s top offense in Houston (5.34). The pitching, however, finished with a 4.87 team ERA, the third-worst mark of any team in baseball. That mark was also way down from the team’s ERA of just 3.98 a season ago. You saw how that played out in the standings at season’s end.
Throwing $300 million for a shortstop isn’t enough to catapult this team back into October. Pitching is where the focus (and dollars) need to be this winter. That’s why signing a versatile guy with good pop like Chris Taylor is so important. It will give the Cubs more resources to address those more glaring needs on the pitching staff while still boosting the offense and depth.