The St. Louis Cardinals are interested in free-agent utility player Chris Taylor, and it makes a ton of sense.
The St. Louis Cardinals have money to spend this winter. They just may not spend it in the way that most people envisioned.
For months, the belief is that they would spend it on a premium free-agent shortstop, with the obvious candidate being Trevor Story. But after giving Paul DeJong a public vote of confidence, such a scenario feels unlikely.
But that doesn’t mean they won’t explore upgrading the shortstop position. The Cardinals are among the teams expressing interest in free-agent Chris Taylor, according to Juan Toribio of MLB.com, with the Boston Red Sox, Texas Rangers, San Francisco Giants, Miami Marlins and Los Angeles Dodgers among teams in the mix.
Taylor, 31, makes a lot of sense for the Cardinals, and it starts with his positional versatility. In addition to playing second and third bases, he’s capable of playing shortstop and all three outfield positions. He would be the starter at shortstop over DeJong, but his presence would help give other players a day off, and likely result in the Cardinals to keep DeJong to play at shortstop while Taylor plays other positions.
Taylor has been impactful offensively, hitting .254/.344/.438 with 20 home runs and 73 RBI, and the Cardinals have seen it up close. He hit the game-clinching home run off Alex Reyes and the Cardinals in the wild card round, sending the Dodgers to the NL Divisional Series against the Giants (sorry for the reminder).
The price to sign Taylor will be cheaper than Story or any other premium free-agent shortstop. Look for Taylor to sign a contract similar to Ben Zobrist’s, with some thought he could secure a deal worth around $16 million per season on a multi-year contract.
But what could make a signing difficult, or perhaps even unlikely, is that signing Taylor requires a team to part with a draft pick. Perhaps his positional versatility makes him an exception, but the Cardinals are adamant about building for the short- and long-term, and surrendering a premium pick for a player over 30 years old doesn’t feel like something president of baseball operations John Mozeliak would do.
But Taylor presents a skill set that could tempt the Cardinals. There are no signs a deal is close, but he is a player worth monitoring.