While we have recently seen the Dodgers replenish the organizational roster with a handful of potential fringe players, we still haven’t witnessed the club make any significant acquisitions that might make an immediate impact on the big league squad.
Along those same lines, several of the players who left Los Angeles via free agency at the end of the 2020 season remained unsigned—specifically, infielder Justin Turner.
According to some news that broke early Saturday evening, the 36-year-old Turner is seeking a multi-year contract that could conceivably push the Dodgers out of the running for his services.
Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe reported over the weekend that Turner is seeking a three-year deal, although there are signs that it’s just a starting point for the Long Beach native, who is represented by GEM Agency.
Abraham says that there are signs that a compromise could be reached between Turner and the Dodgers, adding that both “Dave Roberts and Mookie Betts have said Turner is the key to what has been a strong team culture.”
As stated in the report, “Betts said several times during the postseason that Turner sets the tone in the clubhouse.” Indeed, not having Turner’s veteran presence in the dugout would be a definite blow to the returning team next season.
Still, it’s nothing the Dodgers shouldn’t be able to overcome.
Admittedly, it’s tough seeing JT as an everyday third baseman for the next three seasons in the National League, especially with the designated hitter likely being out of the picture in 2020.
Personally, some of my initial thoughts revolved around Turner moving across the diamond to first base, a spot where slugger Max Muncy has settled nicely over the past few seasons.
During the winter of 2019, JT said publicly that he’d be willing to play anywhere that was beneficial to the club when the Dodgers were pursuing All-Star third baseman Anthony Rendon through free agency.
“I’ve bounced around [the diamond] my whole career,” Turner said during the time of the Rendon rumors. “I don’t care.”
Over the course of his 12-year career, the 2006 seventh-round draft pick of the Cincinnati Reds has appeared in 754 games at third base, 133 games at second base, 46 games at shortstop, 39 games at first base, 26 games at DH and one game in left field.
Turner has not played at first base since the 2016 season.
Conceivably, the string of injuries Turner has sustained in recent seasons may play a role in his next deal, although some of them were more or less on the fluke side.
Last year, Turner missed 18 games with a hamstring injury during the first half of September. In 2018, he got hit hard, sitting out 48 games with a broken wrist early in the season, then missing another 11 games with a groin issue in late July. In 2017, he missed 22 games with a hamstring strain.
Nevertheless, he has been one of the most consistent contributors to the team both on offense and defense.
Last season, Turner hit .307/.400/.460, primarily out of the three-hole. Over 135 games in 2019, he slashed .290/.372/.509 with 27 long balls, 24 doubles and 67 RBI. Still, his defensive skills have been decreasing, as made evident by his -0.2 dWAR in 2019 and his -0.1 dWAR in 2020.
Some of the biggest conversations we’ve had so far this winter have surrounded Edwin Rios or Chris Taylor taking over the regular duties at third base for the Dodgers in 2021. In the same breath, having Turner aboard for at least a few seasons could bridge the gap until Top 5 prospect Kody Hoese proves he’s ready for big league action.
In the end, it will undoubtedly be difficult for the Dodgers to see JT suit up for another team. Whatever happens, though, there will certainly be some kind of an offer on the table for his services. Whether it s enough to keep him in Los Angeles remains to be seen.