Now that the dust is settling on the Dodgers winning the World Series, fans are starting to look forward to next season.
Most of the core of this year’s team will still be with the Dodgers next season, but there were seven players who reached free agency when the season ended. They are Pedro Báez, Justin Turner, Kiké Hernandez, Joc Pederson, Blake Treinen, Jake McGee, and Alex Wood.
Báez, Turner, Hernandez and Pederson all have been with the team for four years or more, seemingly making it harder to say goodbye to them. The Dodgers took one year runners on Treinen, McGee, and Wood. Treinen especially paid off, getting many key outs throughout the playoffs.
Dodger fans will be sad to see any of Pedro, JT, Kiké or Joc play with any other team. Kiké and Joc played their part-time roles extremely well, always showing up in October when the Dodgers needed them most, especially Joc, garnering him the nickname “Joctober.” But both could easily be starters for other teams, and maybe would prefer that to be so.
Turner, from the time he arrived in 2014, just seemed to fit in Dodger Blue. Famously non-tendered from the Mets in 2013, he was on then GM Ned Coletti’s radar, and was signed to minor league contract with an invitation to spring training. He played third, shortstop and second during that season, taking over as the every day third baseman in 2015. From there, he was as steady as they come, becoming on of the defacto captains of the team.
The postseason is where he really shines. Fans will never forget his walk-off home run against the Chicago Cubs in the 2017 NLCS on the anniversary of Kirk Gibson’s Game 1 walk-off in the 1988 World Series. Turner was co-MVP for that series with Chris Taylor. In 2018 the team struggled to get going, due in part to Turner having been hit by a pitch in the wrist in spring training that left him out of the lineup for two months. Once he returned, the Dodger bats starting heating up, and they worked their way back up to towards the top of the division.
2019 and 2020 saw JT continue to be a stalwart at third, and this season ended as him being a World Series champion. Unfortunately, he marred his legacy by going on the field to celebrate with his teammates after testing positive for Covid-19 earlier in the game. One can’t blame him for wanting to be with his team to celebrate this once-in-a-lifetime achievement that has been so long in the making. However, possibly infecting his teammates, their families, and other personnel at the stadium by touching the trophy and not wearing his mask nonstop was a bad decision that could have major repercussions down the road.
Because of that decision, JT very well may be suspended for an amount of time to start the 2021 season. The Dodgers could handle being without him for an amount of time. But is it time to move on?
The Dodgers have Edwin Rios that could take over the day-to-day duties at third base. And they have Kody Hoese waiting in the wings, although he is a few years from making a big impact.
Still, JT is a fan favorite, and has become ingrained in the clubhouse and the greater Los Angeles community. A native Southern Californian, he and his wife Kourtney have spent countless hours giving back to the community that they love, and that loves them back.
If the DH comes to the National League permanently, JT would be the perfect candidate, playing part time third base, while keeping his bat in the lineup. With the way that the Dodgers structure their lineup for matchups, he and the lefty-hitting Rios could platoon the hot corner and DH.
An informal poll of Dodger twitter fans shows that he is overwhelmingly wanted back in Dodger Blue. Most do want him back at a team friendly contract, however. He is now past his prime, and his contract should reflect that.
JT has shown himself to be an outstanding person, on and off the field, the post-World Series celebration notwithstanding. He has been nominated for the Roberto Clemente Award numerous times for the Dodgers, and has been a steady force at third base and in the three-hole in the lineup, as well as the clubhouse. Time will tell whether the Dodgers feel all those attributes are worth bringing him back.