There has been plenty written about the big names of this year’s free agent market, like Yoenis Cespedes, Edwin Encarnacion, and Jose Bautista. One player that there has not been much discussion of is Justin Turner. That may all change next week once we get to Washington, D.C. for the Winter Meetings, which leaves us a little time to look at the potential landing spots for the third baseman.
Justin Turner began to make a name for himself in his short time in New York with the Mets, but his career took off upon his arrival in Los Angeles. Turner became the starting third basemen, instead of being moved around the diamond the way he was in New York, and his power numbers have improved each year since becoming a Dodger. From 2014-2016, Turner has improved his home runs from 7 to 16 to 27, and his ISO from .153 to .197 to .218.
After turning down the Dodgers’ qualifying offer, Justin Turner hits the free agent market at the right time in his career. He is playing the best baseball he has in his career, he is hitting for power at a position where power is a necessity, and he’s one of the best players available in a thin free agent market. While all has been quiet on the Turner front thus far, there should be a number of teams interested in his services. Let’s take a look at some of the teams that may have an interest in Justin Turner.
The obvious team is his most recent employer. The Dodgers hit the jackpot when they signed Justin Turner after the Mets non-tendered him after the 2013 season. While in their employ, he turned into a middle of the order power threat and an integral part of the team’s consecutive playoff runs. At the age of 32, I think Turner will be looking for a deal in the realm of five years and $90 million, but if I were a GM, I would offer a four-year deal around $75 million. There have been recent reports about the Dodgers being in a large amount of debt to Major League Baseball, but the early indications suggest that it shouldn’t hinder any player acquisitions.
Turner has even made an impact in the postseason for the Dodgers since his arrival. In his three postseasons in Dodger blue, he has slashed .357/.471/.607 with two home runs and 12 runs batted in. For a team continuing to look for a way to get over the NLCS-shaped hump in the playoffs, keeping their third basemen will go a long way towards doing that.
If the Dodgers lose Turner, the current plan is for Rob Segedin to play third base, and he would represent a significant step back. With Sean Rodriguez off the market (not that he would have been the best plan B) and third basemen hard to come by via trade, the Dodgers should make re-signing Justin Turner one of their most important objectives this winter.
The Angels make my list, because I am in the camp of people who think they need to do their best to be competitive as long as Mike Trout is on their roster. Currently Yunel Escobar is projected to start at third base for the Angels in 2017, but adding Turner could give Billy Eppler the option to use Yunel Escobar as a potential trade chip or keep him as a versatile option to back up Turner at third and the injury-prone Andrelton Simmons at short.
The Angels are at a point where every win makes a huge difference in their odds of making the playoffs, and where waiting to reload and try again in a few years isn’t an option. Mike Trout singlehandedly makes them into a competitor, and they need to maximize that while they still have him. If the rotation stays healthy, particularly Garrett Richards and Tyler Skaggs, and the additions of Cameron Maybin and potentially Justin Turner improve the Angels lineup, then the Angels may at least be in the conversation for a Wild Card spot, and possibly able to challenge the Astros for the AL West.
The Giants are a huge potential wild card in the Justin Turner market. Currently, Eduardo Nuñez is slated to start at third base for San Francisco next year, and he is a more than suitable option, but what better way to improve and hurt the Dodgers at the same time than to sign their arch-rival’s middle-of-the-order hitter, Justin Turner?
As currently constructed the Giants may best be suited to add a corner outfielder, like Carlos Gomez, but if those options do not pan out, then adding Justin Turner and using Nuñez in a utility role throughout the infield and potentially in left field could be their next-best option. He has not played left field since 2015 in Minnesota and he has not been exceptional in the outfield (1 DRS in 158 innings), but it’s not like he’s a great defender at third either (-5 DRS in 1409 innings). Would the Giants sacrifice some outfield defense to play Turner at third and a platoon of Nuñez and Jarrett Parker in left field?
In the event they do not land Turner, at the very worst, just by talking to him, they could drive up his price and force the Dodgers to pay more, whether in years or dollar figures. In the long run, maybe they could hamper the Dodgers’ future spending, especially with the recent reports of their debt problems.
This isn’t a comprehensive list; the Cardinals are among the other teams reported to be in touch with Turner. But when Spring Training 2017 rolls around, I think Justin Turner will be back in a Dodgers uniform. They are too good of a match to be broken up over more years or dollars. Some players find a home and excel there, but leave for more money/years and don’t find the same success they once did. Would Josh Hamilton have continued to put up MVP numbers in Texas if he did not leave for Los Angeles? We’ll never know, but we might find out what Justin Turner thinks about that idea soon.
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Carl Triano is a contributor at Beyond the Box Score and Minor League Ball.