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Pirates Free Agent Face-Off: Michael A. Taylor vs. Harrison Bader

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Pittsburgh Pirates, Michael A. Taylor

This is one in a series of comparing two Pittsburgh Pirates free agent targets this offseason.

The Pittsburgh Pirates were already searching for an outfielder when the offseason began. Now, with Endy Rodríguez out for the season, that search might be even more intensified.

Why would an injury to a catcher affect the Pirates’ need for outfield help? With Rodríguez out, the Pirates will have to rely more heavily on Henry Davis behind the plate. The bulk of Davis’ work in Pittsburgh last season came in right field. Davis would have likely been at least sharing time out in right field in 2024.

Now, the Pirates will need a third outfielder to pair with Bryan Reynolds and Jack Suwinski. While Suwinski manned center field for the majority of last season, adding a true center fielder would make sense to move Suwinski to a more natural fit at one of the corners.

There are a handful of center field options on the free agent. Two names that could make sense for the Pirates are Michael A. Taylor and Harrison Bader. Let’s compare the two.

Michael A. Taylor

  • Age on 2024 opening day: 33
  • 2023 stats: .220/.278/.442, 14 doubles, one triple, 21 home runs, 51 RBIs, 13 steals, 96 wRC+, five DRS, 129 games
  • Career stats: .239/.294/.389, 127 doubles, 13 triples, 95 home runs, 332 RBIs, 108 steals, 82 wRC+, 76 DRS, 969 games
  • MLBTR contract prediction: N/A

Taylor has always been a strong defender and had a solid season last year with the bat in terms of power. His 21 home runs set a new career-high and his .442 slugging-percentage was his highest mark since 2017.

Even with the power spike, Taylor’s defense would be what appeals to the Pirates. Last season, Pirates’ outfielders combined for minus-24 defensive runs saved which was third-worst in baseball. Taylor would provide Pittsburgh with an instant upgrade at defense in center field. He has a Gold Glove on his resumé from 2021.

If Taylor can replicate his 20-plus home run season to go along with 13 steals, it would be a nice bonus for the Pirates.

Harrison Bader

  • Age on 2024 opening day: 29
  • 2023 stats: .232/.274/.348, 12 doubles, two triples, seven home runs, 40 RBIs, 20 steals, 70 wRC+, four DRS, 98 games
  • Career stats: .243/.310/.396, 87 doubles, 13 triples, 59 home runs, 217 RBIs, 77 steals, 92 wRC+, 52 DRS, 635 games
  • MLBTR contract prediction: 2 years, $20 million

Bader had been hampered by injuries the past two seasons, which have limited his production. Even with the injury concerns, Bader has still been able to utilize his speed and has continued to play good defense. Bader won a Gold Glove in 2021 with the St. Louis Cardinals.

While Bader has struggled at the plate the last two seasons, he was a fairly productive player from 2018-21. Over those four seasons, Bader was about a league average offensive player with a .745 OPS in 419 games played

Like with Taylor, Bader can step in immediately and play center field while being flanked by Reynolds and Suwinski.

Parting Thoughts

There are pluses and minuses with both players, but either one presents a logical fit for the Pirates. Taylor is more durable than Bader is, but Bader has youth and offers a bit more upside at the plate.

The key for the Pittsburgh Pirates with either is upgrading defensively up the middle, something Ben Cherington and Derek Shelton have emphasized.

MLB Trade Rumors’ contract prediction of two-years and $20 million for Bader feels a bit on the high side to me. He could be looking at a one-year deal to try and re-establish his value. Regardless, both players should fit within the Pirates’ budget constraints.

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