Saturday marks the fifth anniversary of one of the greatest trades in recent Dodgers history, the acquisition of Chris Taylor from the Mariners for former first-round pick Zach Lee.
Taylor was an unheralded utility infielder at the time, but since joining the Dodgers has morphed into an invaluable piece of a championship puzzle, playing just about everywhere. This year, Taylor has spent his most playing time in center field filling in for Cody Bellinger. He did the same at shortstop in 2018 when Corey Seager missed the final five months.
“I feel like my role has always been to play all over the field, and that’s part of my value, Taylor said in March. “There’s been times where guys have gotten hurt, and then I have to play one position for a month or whatever.”
Wherever the Dodgers need him, Taylor plays. He’s played over 100 games at four different positions for the team — shortstop, center field, left field, and second base — and also mixed in time at third base and right field in his tenure with Los Angeles.
At the plate, Taylor has been an above-average hitter offensively in each of the last five seasons. He had arguably his best year in 2020, with full-season bests in walk rate and strikeout rate. This year, he’s walking even more and striking out less, hitting .264/.387/.458 with a 140 wRC+ and is tied for second in the National League with 50 runs scored.
Since the start of 2017, Taylor is 14th in the National League in Wins Above Replacement, both the Baseball Reference version (14.3) and FanGraphs (13.1), and his 121 wRC+ in that time ranks 14th as well.
In the flip side of that, Lee, who turns 30 in September, is in his seventh season in Triple-A, currently with Reno in the Diamondbacks system.
The Dodgers signed Lee away from a multi-sport commitment to LSU, where he would also play quarterback for the football team. The $5.25 million signing bonus was synonymous with Lee’s name for years before he became the man traded for Taylor. But he’s back throwing footballs again, as part of his baseball training, and told Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times that its helped him improve his pitching:
“I grew up throwing 200 footballs a day and then going out and pitching seven innings. My body knows that stress and how to adjust to it, how to acclimate itself to it. If I go out and throw a 1,000-gram ball 80 times into a wall, my body is probably going to go, ‘What are we doing?’”
Lee is scheduled to start Sunday afternoon for Reno against Albuquerque, for whom the right-hander started 27 times while in the Dodgers system in 2014.
- Teams: Dodgers (42-27) at Diamondbacks (20-51)
- Location: Chase Field, Phoenix
- Time: 7:10 p.m. PT
- TV: SportsNet LA