Rumors: Blue Jays targeting intriguing outfielder in early days of free agency

An interesting replacement for Kevin Kiermaier may have just surfaced...
Division Series - Houston Astros v Minnesota Twins - Game Four
Division Series - Houston Astros v Minnesota Twins - Game Four / Brace Hemmelgarn/GettyImages
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With the departure of Kevin Kiermaier in free agency, the Toronto Blue Jays are in the market for another outfielder. Kiermaier himself is not an impossibility to return on another contract; but the general feel in the industry is that he's going to be sought after enough that another, more attractive team will outbid the Jays for his services.

This offseason has only just begun, but the rumor mill is already heating up. Per MLB insider Jon Morosi, the Blue Jays have a target on their radar in the early goings of this years' Winter Meetings: outfielder Michael A. Taylor.

Taylor, 32, swings the bat from the right side and is coming off of one of his best offensive seasons across a 10-year big league career. The speedy outfielder made it into 129 games for the Twins, hitting 21 home runs with 51 driven in, stealing 15 bases and posting an OPS+ of 94 along the way. Last year, he raised his Barrel % significantly, finishing in the 88th percentile in the league after ranking in the 41st the year before.

On defense, he is one of the best outfielders in the game. Taylor's Baseball Savant page shows immediately just how good he was last year. Amongst fellow outfielders, here's where he ranked percentile-wise:

Stat

Percentile

Outs Above Average (Range)

95th

Arm Value

87th

Arm Strength

90th

Fielding Run Value

93rd

Sprint Speed

85th

While Sprint Speed falls more under his "running" tool than his defense, it's still worth acknowledging, because Taylor is a fast runner both on the bases and in the outfield grass. For reference, Kiermaier was in the 98th, 54th, 95th, 96th and 87th percentiles in each of the above categories. Point being, these two are neck-and-neck in more ways than one.

On the surface, Taylor seems to be a carbon copy of Daulton Varsho and Kiermaier, but from the right side of the plate. He also has a fairly impressive postseason track record; 4 home runs and 10 RBI with a .275 average and .861 OPS in 21 career games. Taylor also has a World Series ring for his time on the 2019 Washington Nationals.

Of note, Taylor has historically been an above-average hitter against left-handed pitching. This trait alone more than justifies the interest from the Blue Jays. In his career, he boasts a 118 OPS+ against LHP and a 93 OPS+ against RHP. Just this past season alone, he had a 149 OPS+ against lefties and an 80 OPS+ against righties.

During this time of year, every team is talking to every player's representatives. Hot stove season always brings intrigue and rumors alike, but nothing is close between the Jays and Taylor right now. He should command a relatively cheap one or two-year contract this offseason, so the fit is there. Should he be brought aboard, it's likely he'll serve as the Jays' fourth outfielder, as the club still desperately needs to bring a big bat aboard and with all due respect to Taylor, it isn't him.