The Minnesota Twins have the best defensive outfielder in baseball in Byron Buxton. Of course, Buxton has only managed to appear in more than 100 games once in his career, and that was all the way back in 2017.
When Buxton was on the shelf in 2022, the Twins gave 347 plate appearances to Gilberto Celestino, a solid defender but a miserable offensive performer at the major-league level.
The Twins knew they needed a solid backup to Buxton, both so that the defense doesn’t take much of a dip at all when the All-Star centerfielder takes a day off, and so that there is experience and consistency that can be plugged in for longer stretches of play if Buxton ends up on the shelf again.
Michael A. Taylor, acquired for two non-40-man roster/non-prospect arms in Evan Sisk and Steven Cruz earlier in the week, has been one of the best defensive outfielders in baseball for years.
He played a bit role in the Washington Nationals’ 2019 World Series title — although for fans of the “clutch gene,” Taylor hit a home run off the bench in the World Series and has put up an on-base-plus slugging mark of 1.027 in 43 plate appearances across 16 postseason games from 2016 to 2019 with the Nats — and spent the last couple of seasons with the Kansas City Royals after signing as a free agent prior to the 2021 season.
Taylor is only under contract for 2023 and will hit the free-agent market again next winter, but he’ll be paid just $4.5 million and serve as a stopgap insurance policy behind Buxton.
Taylor is a superior defender to Celestino and a marginally better hitter. Celestino could ultimately develop into a better offensive player, but with an option year remaining, he now has the chance to work on his game at Triple-A St. Paul instead of sporadic at-bats behind Buxton at the big-league level or being pressed into everyday duty in center in the event of another Buxton injury.
The Twins now have plus defenders in center field (Buxton) and right field (Max Kepler) and have populated the depth chart with a pair of plus defenders in Taylor and Celestino. Newcomer Joey Gallo, an above-average defender in his own right, is also in the mix in the outfield.
This trade was perfect for Minnesota. The acquisition cost (Sisk and Cruz) was reasonable, the need (outfield defense/righthanded bat) was clear, and the player they acquired has basically no risk, given the one year left on the contract and Taylor’s long track record of outstanding defense and know-what-you’re-getting offense.
This is another example of the Twins’ front office acquiring quality depth. In this case, it was finding an actual bench piece and bumping a player from last year’s underperforming team into a role that suits him best — and this certainly doesn’t mean that we’ve seen the last of Celestino, either. It simply means that he’s a rung deeper on the depth chart and can spend (hopefully) much of the year St. Paul.
Indeed, moves like this are made by front offices who are shoring up the fringes of the roster and preparing for a division title and, hopefully, a lengthy run in October. Here’s hoping that’s the case.