Third baseman Justin Turner will be back with the Dodgers, extending the run of one of the most popular and productive players in franchise history.
The news was broken by Turner.
Lettts gooo run it back @Dodgers fans!!! @vaynersports @vaynerbaseball pic.twitter.com/fRY0pvyWMx— Justin Turner (@redturn2) February 14, 2021
The Dodgers are already well into the upper tier of competitive balance tax penalties for 2021, especially after signing Trevor Bauer. But president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said that spending wouldn’t keep them from adding other players.
“I think we’re committed to doing everything we can to put together the best roster that we can,” Friedman said on Thursday. “It’s pretty well documented what we think of JT, what he’s meant to this organization. But as far as how that’s gonna play out, we will see.”
Turner’s deal is for two years and $34 million, including a team option for 2023, per Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic. Jeff Passan at ESPN reported earlier that Turner’s contract was “more than $30 million.”
Turner has been with the Dodgers since 2014, originally joining them on a minor league deal after getting non-tendered by the Mets. He just completed a four-year contract that was set to pay him $64 million, though the pandemic-shortened 2020 season saw his $19 million salary pro-rated to $7.04 million.
Turner’s 631 starts at third base with the Dodgers is the third-most in franchise history, trailing only Ron Cey and Adrián Beltré.
“He’s one of the Dodger greats, he really is,” manager Dave Roberts said on December 17. “His body of work is really special, unique, but it’s a two-way deal. It’s the organization, the Dodgers, but it’s also Justin and his family, they’ve got to make a decision. But selfishly, I’ll take him for as long as I can have him.”
Roberts reiterated his wish for Turner to return in an interview with MLB Network Radio on Jan. 27. “I’m one of his biggest advocates, and what he does for me and the ball club speaks for itself,” Roberts said. “But both sides have kind of got to work things out to make a deal.”
Most games at 3B, Dodgers history
The free agent market has been exceptionally slow this offseason, with only 17 hitters signing multi-year contracts to date. Turner was rumored to receive interest earlier this winter from the Blue Jays, whose big-ticket signing this winter was outfielder George Springer for a reported six years and $150 million, in addition to one year and $18 million for infielder Marcus Semien.
Milwaukee also reportedly showed interest in Turner at various points throughout the winter.
Turner at times this offseason was rumored to be seeking either a three-year deal (per Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe in December) or a four-year deal (per Jorge Castillo of the Los Angeles Times in January).
Turner hit .307/.400/.460 in 42 games during the regular season in 2020, with a 140 wRC+ that was right in line with his 141 wRC+ in seven years since joining the Dodgers. Turner hit .250/.333/.471 during the postseason last year, including .320/.346/.720 in the World Series. He started all 18 postseason games (17 at third base, once at designated hitter).
Turner was removed from Game 6 of the World Series in the eighth inning after a positive COVID-19 test. He then broke protocol to celebrate the championship with his teammates, for which he was initially admonished by commissioner Rob Manfred. But after an apology from Turner and an admission of culpability by MLB, Turner was not disciplined for the incident.
What the Dodgers are getting in Turner is an incredibly productive hitter — 37th in wRC+ among 203 major league hitters with 150 plate appearances in 2020, 10th in the last four seasons — but also someone who is now 36 years old and has played more than 135 games in a season once in his career (151 games, in 2016). Since the start of the 2017 season, Turner has started 70 percent of Dodgers games, which works out to 113 starts in a 162-game season.
In other words, there should still be ample playing time at third base for Edwin Ríos, who has 12 home runs and a .634 slugging percentage in his 60 major league games.
With Turner, Joc Pederson, and Kiké Hernández all free agents this winter, the Dodgers’ position player depth took a hit. Bringing back Turner, the best hitter of the bunch and a leader in the clubhouse, was a necessary move.
Once Turner’s deal is finalized, the Dodgers will need to make a corresponding transaction since their 40-man roster is currently full.