It happens quickly. Agents talk, the media listens, there’s a whistling tea kettle on the hot stove, and social media convulses. Baseball offseason rumors reproduce and multiply and leave folks panting — and there are no interruptions to the supply chain. These dollops of gossip are free … and a lot cheaper than, say, the price of a Thanksgiving turkey in 2021. We all like rumors; they’re fun and harmless and don’t cause you to gain weight.

We need to microwave these precious rumors for as long as we can, at least until commissioner Rob Manfred and the owners open the anticipated labor battle by locking out the players on Dec. 1. Good times! Baseball’s bizarrely self-destructive insanity remains in place, and it’s the perfect way to throw coal dust on the holiday season. Seriously: have you ever seen a professional sport that hates itself more than Major League Baseball?

OK, all of that said. I’m going forward…

Rumor: the Cardinals are among 2,421 teams interested in free-agent Chris Taylor, the all-terrain utility player who played a valuable role for the Dodgers from 2017 through 2021.

Well, go get him then. Seriously, Taylor is a ridiculously ideal fit for what the Cardinals aspire to be (offensively) in 2021: more versatility, more flexibility, more options, more pieces for enhanced matchups. This is manager Oli Marmol’s stated goal, so the Cardinals should help the man out.

Why Taylor? Oh, a bunch of reasons. Let’s have a look-see and then get him signed and outfitted in the Birds on the Bat:

1) Taylor played at six positions last season: 294 innings at second base, 81 at third base, 154 at shortstop, 170 in left field, 423 in center, and 69 innings in right field. At minus 4 runs saved, Taylor wasn’t good defensively in center last season, and he didn’t play well at third base. Taylor’s imperfections are forgivable because he wouldn’t be parked at any position for a long period of time. Marmol could move this dude around, several times a game, and make proper use of Taylor’s bat.

2) Taylor is a very good hitter. In 617 regular-season games for the Dodgers he had a .343 onbase percentage and .461 slug for a .804 OPS and was 16 percent above league average offensively in park-and-league adjusted runs created.

3) Taylor bats righthanded but is above-average when batting against RH pitching. And that’s an important consideration for a Cardinal team that’s taken 79.6 percent of its plate appearances against righthanded pitching over the past three seasons. During his five seasons as a Dodger had a .796 OPS against RHP, and a .821 OPS vs. lefties. Taylor 15% above league average vs. RHP since 2017.

4) Taylor is a plus base runner who posted a 79 percent stolen-base success rate and a 47% bases-taken rate as a Dodger. Last season he ranked in the 91st percentile among MLB players in sprint speed. This only adds to his value — and Taylor has plenty of value, averaging just under 3.2 WAR over his last four full seasons.

5) Taylor’s walk rate over the past three seasons is a terrific 11.6% percent, which puts him in the 75th percentile of all big-league hitters. Taylor doesn’t chase many pitches out of the strike zone; he was in the 93rd percentile in this area last season. And was even better in 2020. (Having said that, Taylor does have a 27.6% strikeout rate over the last three seasons, and that’s on the high side.)

6) Need a big hit? Taylor is a money man. In his last three seasons he batted .306 and slugged .517 with runners in scoring position and had a .916 OPS with RISP. To put that in park-and-league adjusted runs created: over the past three seasons Taylor was 41% above league average offensively when batting with runners in scoring position. This is good, yes?

7) Defensive shifts don’t bother him at all. In his last four seasons Taylor has a .316 batting average against traditional shifts, and a .460 average when confronted by non-traditional shifts. A look at Statcast shows a couple of things: Taylor has never been a Statcast star, so to speak. His offensive metrics are solid but nothing exceptional. But he’s steady and consistent. His hard-hit rate, average exit velocity and barrel percentage have remained intact, with no glaring signs of slippage.

8) Two-strike hitting. Cardinals have emphasized the need to take better at-bats in two-strike counts. Taylor can help the cause. Over the last five seasons he’s a .182 hitter with two strikes; last season the Cards had a two-strike batting average of .169.

9) Taylor thrives in the pressure of the postseason setting. In 62 postseason games for the Dodgers, Taylor had a .364 onbase percentage and a .478 slug for a .842 OPS. He had an extra-base hit every 11.9 postseason at-bats. In the 2021 playoffs Taylor went 13 for 37 (.351) with a 1.202 OPS and knocked the Cardinals out with a walk-off, two-run homer in the wild card game. He slammed three home runs in Game 5 of the NLCS to temporarily save the Dodgers from elimination.

As the Los Angeles Times noted: “Taylor has come a long way since the Dodgers acquired him for Zach Lee in 2016. He became an integral part of three pennant-winning teams, a playoff hero, and a first-time All-Star in 2021 as a utility player willing to play wherever.”

10) What will it take to get Taylor signed? He recently turned 31 years old. He had a booming first half in 2021, slumped terribly in the second half, and starred in the postseason. The cost of a Taylor contract probably went up with his baseball-hero playoff moments.

From the LA Times: “Taylor is 31 and his defense declined this season. His market will be an intriguing one. He’s expected to see three-year offers with the potential for a four-year deal.”

The Cardinals get to make the call on all of that. There are other considerations. When I wrote this a day ago, I accidentally deleted a small section of copy while editing, and I wanted to thank those of you who reminded me of these factors:

Number one, the Cardinals do have plenty of utility types for use in the infield and corner outfield.

Two, don’t forget, the Cards would lose a draft choice by signing Taylor, who received a qualifying offer from the Dodgers.

Three, STL front office is never keen on the idea of handing over a draft choice.

But if the Cardinals want to build a stronger overall cast of position players, add a major multi-position asset, significantly improve their depth, and bring in a championship-caliber player who prospers under pressure — then Taylor is the guy.

Thanks for reading …

–Bernie

Bernie invites you to listen to his opinionated sports-talk show on 590-AM The Fan, KFNS. It airs Monday through Thursday from 3-6 p.m. and Friday from 4-6 p.m. You can listen by streaming online or by downloading the “Bernie Show” podcast at 590thefan.com — the 590 app works great and is available in your preferred app store.

The weekly “Seeing Red” podcast with Bernie and Will Leitch is available at 590thefan.com …  but we’re on a brief hiatus now. 

Follow Bernie on Twitter @miklasz

* All stats used here are sourced from FanGraphs, Baseball Reference, Stathead, Bill James Online, Fielding Bible, Baseball Savant and Brooks Baseball Net unless otherwise noted.