Michael Taylor playing his way into Nats’ outfield mix

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Michael Taylor seemed destined for a bench role once the Nationals acquired Ben Revere from the Blue Jays in January. Defending National League MVP Bryce Harper has claim to right field and $126 million man Jayson Werth, finally healthy, would handle left field.

But Taylor has had a very productive spring, batting .485 with three doubles, three home runs, and three stolen bases across 33 at-bats. He’s caught the eye of manager Dusty Baker, per Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports, and he might force the Nationals to make room for him.

Werth, of course, is nearly untradeable as he turns 37 years old in May, played in only 88 games with yet more injuries last season, and is owed $42 million total through 2017. And Harper isn’t going anywhere, at least not until the 2018 season. The Nationals’ best option, if they intend to give Taylor a shot, seems to be platooning Werth and Revere in left field and putting Taylor in right.

Taylor, 25 on Saturday, posted a meager .640 OPS in 511 plate appearances last season, but he entered the year rated as baseball’s 32nd-best prospect according to Baseball America. He plays strong defense, runs the bases well, and can develop into a major league-capable hitter. The Nationals, however, may not want to afford Taylor more time for growing pains as they attempt to dethrone the Mets in the National League East.

It’s an interesting situation to watch, as spring training is suddenly close to finishing.

Colin Poche, Rays go to arbitration just $125,000 apart

Colin Poche torn UCL
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Reliever Colin Poche went to salary arbitration with the Tampa Bay Rays on Tuesday with the sides just $125,000 apart.

The gap between the $1.3 million the pitcher asked for and the $1,175,000 the team offered was the smallest among the 33 players who exchanged proposed arbitration figures last month. The case was heard by John Woods, Jeanne Vonhof and Walt De Treux, who will hold their decision until later this month.

A 29-year-old left-hander, Poche had Tommy John surgery on July 29, 2020, and returned to the major leagues last April 22 after six appearances at Triple-A Durham. Poche was 4-2 with a 3.99 ERA and seven saves in 65 relief appearances for the Rays. He struck out 64 and walked 22 in 58 2/3 innings.

Poche had a $707,800 salary last year.

Tampa Bay went to arbitration on Monday with reliever Ryan Thompson, whose decision also is being held until later this month. He asked for $1.2 million and the Rays argued for $1 million.

Rays right-hander Jason Adam and outfielder Harold Ramirez remain scheduled for hearings.

Players and teams have split four decisions thus far. All-Star pitcher Max Fried ($13.5 million) lost to Atlanta and reliever Diego Castillo ($2.95 million) was defeated by Seattle, while pitcher Jesus Luzardo ($2.45 million) and AL batting champion Luis Arraez ($6.1 million) both beat the Marlins.

A decision also is pending for Los Angeles Angels outfielder Hunter Renfroe.

Eighteen additional players are eligible for arbitration and hearings are scheduled through Feb. 17. Among the eligible players is Seattle utilityman Dylan Moore, who has a pending three-year contract worth $8,875,000.