Dodgers Roster Decision: Chris Taylor Or James Outman Once Jason Heyward Returns

The Los Angeles Dodgers are in the midst of a blistering stretch, expanding upon their lead in the National League West, while playing complimentary baseball up and down the roster.

However, with Jason Heyward progressing toward a return to the team, his left-handed bat creates a difficult decision for the Dodgers front office. The veteran outfielder was signed to a one-year, $9 million deal, but has been out since late March with an injury.

His lingering back soreness is what has kept him out, but the more at-bats he sees in Oklahoma City, the closer he in to getting up to speed. Over the course of 2023, he carried a 121 wRC+, but it’s his platoon splits against right-handed pitchers that makes him a valuable option when healthy.

What Heyward can do for the team is boost their lineup against righties, while giving Dodgers manager Dave Roberts another pinch hit option that he can rely on in late-game spots.

As long as Heyward’s back holds up and continues his recent platoon trends, good things are on the horizon for the 34-year-old. On the flip side, this creates a predicament for the Dodgers when he wraps up his stay in OKC, with a pair of struggling hitters currently on the big league roster.

The decision to make room for Heyward will likely come between James Outman and Chris Taylor, leaving the Dodgers with an interesting decision. Of course, something else could pop up before they actually activate Heyward, but that may not be the likely scenario.

Dodgers roster options

James Outman

On the season, Outman is batting .155/.256/.282 with a 61 wRC+, with three home runs among his seven total extra base hits.

Carrying a 31.6% strikeout rate, Outman’s status as a pure platoon bat against right-handed pitchers hasn’t been a positive. The 2023 Rookie of the Year finalist is batting .152/.250/.293 against righties, and since May 15, he owns a 44 wRC+, overall.

One avenue for the Dodgers is to option Outman to Triple-A with OKC, as he still has two Minor League options on his contract. This remains the most likely move between he and Chris Taylor.

The 27-year-old isn’t arbitration eligible until 2026, so his status as an older player makes a decision like this a tough one. Although, Roberts has stated this isn’t an option they’ve discussed as of yet.

He’s still a plus-defender with a good arm, and perhaps he’s been snake bit by some bad luck. His launch angle sweet spot % is 40.9, which puts him in the 88th percentile. On the down side, Outman’s strikeout and chase rates are both in league-worst spots.

He has remained in a starting role despite his struggles, but optioning him would be the easiest way to make room for Heyward. It also makes more sense to replace a left-handed outfielder with another left-handed outfielder.

Chris Taylor

Perhaps the most difficult decision of all is what to do with Taylor. Who, among players on the Dodgers roster, looks as lost as anyone.

But looking around Major League Baseball, there might not be anyone more out of sorts. Among hitters with at-least 40 plate appearances, he ranks dead last out of 378 qualified hitters with a .071 batting average and a .071 slugging percentage.

Taylor boasts a -1 wRC+ with a 41.2% strikeout rate. The 33-year-old has shown peaks and valleys in his time with the team, but nothing as low as this.

The mechanics he fixed early in his tenure with the team starting in 2016 are far gone.

He’s still owed a fair amount of money, being under contract through the 2015 season with an average annual value of $13 million next season. The club cutting ties with Taylor would be a gut-wrenching move, and an unexpected one, but his lows are to the point where he’s been a huge detriment to the offense when inserted into the lineup.

Because of his clubhouse value, it may be unlikely the Dodgers totally cut ties with him, but his production on the field is making it a possibility.

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