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Phillies Nuggets with Tim Kelly

Add Chris Taylor to list of potential free-agent targets for Phillies


Chris Taylor can become a free agent this offseason. (Ian D’Andrea)

A year after helping the Los Angeles Dodgers to win their first World Series title since 1988, Kiké Hernandez has been a key cog for the Boston Red Sox, who find themselves three wins away from reaching the fall classic.

As Phillies Nation‘s Destiny Lugardo put it over the weekend, the Phillies are among a large contingent of teams that didn’t give the super-utility star a hard enough look (or one at all) before Hernandez signed what now looks like a bargain two-year/$14 million deal with the Boston Red Sox. Perhaps that was because the Phillies hoped that Scott Kingery would develop into a star contributor, able to move between three or four different positions seamlessly like Hernandez has now done for multiple contenders.

While it’s too late to target Hernandez, finding a Swiss Army knife for Joe Girardi to employ in 2022 remains a pressing need. Kingery is guaranteed $14 million over the next two seasons, but after a lost 2021 season, it’s unclear what the 27-year-old’s future is and whether it will be with the Phillies. Certainly, Dave Dombrowski and the Phillies front office can’t bank on Kingery moving forward.

Enter, Chris Taylor, who Scott Lauber of The Philadelphia Inquirer initially suggested could be an interesting target for the Phillies earlier this month.

While the Phillies hope that Didi Gregorius bounces back in 2022, Dombrowski was non-committal on the 31-year-old remaining at shortstop moving forward in his year-end presser. The Phillies will continue to see if Alec Bohm can develop into an adequate third baseman, but in addition to offensive struggles this past season, the former first-round pick has -19 career defensive runs saved at the hot corner. Left field and center field may also need to be filled, given that both Andrew McCutchen and Odúbel Herrera may have played their final games in red pinstripes.

One of those four uncertain positions could be filled by a big-ticket free agent. Perhaps Trevor Story — who killed the Phillies in 2021 — could be signed to play shortstop for the foreseeable future. Maybe Nick Castellanos or Michael Conforto could join the Phillies to play left field, replacing McCutchen defensively and giving the Phillies another middle-of-the-order bat behind Bryce Harper.

But as former Phillies general manager Rubén Amaro Jr. famously said before what turned out to be Jayson Werth’s final year with the team, you can’t have someone making $10 million at every position. Even with more than a decade of inflation, that’s still true if your team doesn’t plan to blow by the luxury tax threshold every year, which the Phillies seemingly don’t plan to do.

Without a doubt, that puts more of a focus on developing internal talents. That’s why new director of player development Preston Mattingly has such an important task in front of him over the next few years. In the meantime, though, the Phillies have a major league roster built to win right now, which means that if you do spend on free agents this winter, they seemingly need to kill multiple birds with one stone.

Taylor would do that. A key base running error in Game 1 of the NLCS aside, Taylor is a smart player that would be capable of playing multiple positions at a high level right away for the Phillies. Girardi could plug and play Taylor at any of center field, left field, shortstop, third base or even second base (which is unlikely in 2022 with Jean Segura under contract), or some combination.

The presence of a piece like Taylor would allow the Phillies defensive alignment entering 2022 not to be overly regimented, without feeling like you’re trying to fit a square peg in a round hole. If Gregorius bounces back and solidifies himself as the starting shortstop in 2022, that’s fine, Taylor can play left or center field. If things don’t work out for Bohm at third base, Taylor played 81 innings at the hot corner in 2021. If Segura goes on the injured list, as he did twice this past season, Taylor has logged over 770 career innings at second base and could fill in during the two-time All-Star’s absence.

As Dombrowski said, the Phillies do need to add another middle-of-the-order bat this offseason, and candidates like Story, Castellanos or Conforto could fit that bill. However, when you consider that the Dodgers had Cody Bellinger come off the bench in Game 1 of the NLCS and A.J. Pollock hit eighth in Game 2, the Phillies could stand to lengthen their lineup if they want to have a realistic chance to win in the postseason over the next few seasons. Taylor — who has a .798 OPS over the past two seasons — would help them towards that end.

Perhaps signing the 31-year-old to a multi-year pact this offseason wouldn’t be seen as one of the sexy moves of the winter, but it may be the type of transaction that helps you return to the playoffs for the first time in over a decade.

Hector Neris has spent his entire career with the Phillies. (Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire)

The Nuggets

  • As I wrote last week for Audacy Sports, I believe the Phillies are about as good of a fit for Craig Kimbrel as anyone. Bob Nightengale of USA Today reported that the Chicago White Sox plan to pick up the eight-time All-Star closer’s $16 million option for 2022 and then trade him.
  • Something that makes you raise your eyebrows: In his season-ending press conference, Dombrowski talked about Héctor Neris’ effectiveness once the Phillies took him out of the closer’s role. In his answer about some positives he saw in the bullpen, Dombrowski mentioned that he’s excited to see how José Alvarado, Connor Brogdon and Sam Coonrod develop, and that the Phillies hope that Seranthony Dominguez will make an impact in 2022. Dombrowski declined to get into some of the team’s impending free agents, seemingly referring to Ian Kennedy and Archie Bradley. Of course, Neris — the longest-tenured Phillie — is also slated to become a free agent. Was Dombrowski referencing him an accidental admission that the Phillies expect to re-sign the 32-year-old?
  • Throughout the NLDS series between the San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers, Brian Anderson repeatedly talked about how he believed the National League Cy Young Award race would come down to Max Scherzer and Corbin Burnes. He also mentioned Walker Buehler and Julio Urías as candidates. The exclusion of Zack Wheeler rubbed some Phillies fans the wrong way. Anderson’s color commentator on TBS, Ron Darling, finally tossed Wheeler’s name into the hat late in the series, saying that the Phillies ace had “a workhorse year.” Darling, of course, announced Wheeler’s first five seasons as a member of the New York Mets. He also saw the 31-year-old righty go 3-1 with a 2.10 ERA in five starts against his former team in 2021.

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