Trea Turner was half of a two-pronged blockbuster at the trade deadline, and in his two months with the Dodgers finished off a regular season that earned him well-deserved MVP consideration. But his slide in the playoffs mirrored the demise of LA’s offense, which saw them eliminated in the NLCS.
The Dodgers acquired Turner along with Max Scherzer from Washington at the July 30 trade deadline, and both were at the top of their game with the Dodgers. Scherzer led the National League in pitching fWAR starting with July 31, while Turner was sixth among position players.
Turner joining the Dodgers required a sacrifice. With pending free agent Corey Seager fully entrenched, Turner needed to play a position other than shortstop for the first time in five years. Having played both second base and centerfield in the majors — though not since 2016 — Turner made his preference known in a meeting with manager Dave Roberts and president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman after the trade.
“His preference was to stay on the dirt, which makes sense to me. I want to make sure Trea is comfortable,” Roberts said in August, per Mike DiGiovanna at the Los Angeles Times. “This is something different for him, as far as the trade. Getting him comfortable is really important for him and the Dodgers.”
After a pinch-hit appearance in his Dodgers debut on August 6 — activated just before the game after a week-long stint on the COVID-19 injured list — Turner settled in at his new old position. He started 52 of the final 53 games, with 49 games at second base and three starts at shortstop when Seager got a day off. Turner helped solidify the infield, but more importantly, buoyed the offense during a stretch that saw multiple regulars slump down the stretch.
Turner with the Dodgers hit .338/.385/.565 with 10 home runs and 11 steals, scoring 41 runs in a third of a season. Against left-handers, Turner was otherworldly with LA, hitting .365/.421/.808, a 220 wRC+, helping fuel the Dodgers’ second-half resurgence against southpaws.
Numbers aside, Turner provided several “Wow” moments. For one, his speed is breathtaking, both in stealing bases and, say, scoring from first base on a single. Secondly, occasionally he had a slide that seemed to defy laws of physics, an impossibly smooth baseball play that was undeniably cool.
His combined numbers with the Nationals and Dodgers were excellent, winning a batting title, the first Dodger to lead the league in batting average since Eddie Murray in 1990. Turner also led the league in stolen bases (32), hits (195), total bases (319), and FanGraphs WAR (6.9). He’s not the top three in National League MVP voting, but figures to receive votes, the extent of which will be announced on Thursday, November 18.
Then the playoffs happened and Turner, like the bulk of the Dodgers offense, struggled mightily.
Turner was 11-for-51 with two doubles, a walk, and 12 strikeouts in the postseason, hitting a paltry .216/.245/.255. Despite hitting third in nine of 12 playoff games and second in three others, Turner scored only three times and drove in just two runs.
He wasn’t alone. Justin Turner, an annual postseason performer, was 4-for-34 before he got hurt. Corey Seager, winner of last year’s NLCS MVP and World Series MVP, hit just .188/.264/.375 in this year’s playoffs. It happens.
Trea Turner in his career is a .228/.274/.287 hitter in 39 postseason games, but the good news with October is the sample is small and can change with one good year. Cody Bellinger hit .192/.259/.362 in his first 47 postseason games before hitting a pennant-winning home run. Seager was a .203/.275/.331 postseason hitter in 31 games before going buck wild in 2020.
What made the trade with Washington more intriguing was not only getting Turner and Scherzer for this year’s stretch run, but also because Turner has one more year before becoming a free agent.
That gives the Dodgers a full year of an impact player no matter which middle infield position Turner plays in 2022, and for Turner gets another chance to turn those October woes around.
Stats: .328/.375/.536 (.338/.385/.565 with Dodgers), 28 HR, 32 SB, 146 OPS+, 142 wRC+, 6.5 bWAR, 6.9 fWAR
Salary: $13 million
Game of the year
With the Dodgers fighting tooth and nail with the juggernaut Giants for the division, Los Angeles trailed the Brewers 5-1 on the final Friday of the regular season. Turner hit a game-tying grand slam in the fifth inning, his second home run of a game the Dodgers would win 8-6, their 104th victory of the season.
GRAND SLAM? TREA MAGNIFIQUE. pic.twitter.com/bFAgX6rSg5— Los Angeles Dodgers (@Dodgers) October 2, 2021
It was quite a finishing kick to Turner’s stellar regular season. He hit two grand slams in the final weekend, and ended the year on a 19-game hitting streak. Turner scored at least once in the final 10 games of the season, the longest streak by a Dodger since Seager two years earlier.
With five years, 135 days of major league service time, Turner is eligible for salary arbitration for a final time this winter. MLB Trade Rumors projects Turner to earn $19.8 million in 2022. He will be a free agent after next season.