Justin Turner, the wildly popular and still productive third baseman who very much wanted to remain in Los Angeles for a tenth season, instead will reportedly head to the Red Sox as the Dodgers failed to retain a player they said was a priority this offseason.
Terms on Justin Turner with Red Sox, per source: Two years, $21.7M if he exercises player option for 2024, one year, $15M if he does not. Can also earn $200K each in ‘23 for 480, 500, 520, 540 and 560 plate appearances. Maximum $1M. Pending physical.— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) December 19, 2022
At the MLB general managers meetings in Las Vegas on November 8, Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said of Turner, “The priority is that we show up in Glendale and for him to be a part of what we’re doing next year. What exactly that looks like, we need time to work through,” per Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register.
That timing was also referenced by Turner in a November 17 interview with Petros and Money on AM 570.
“Obviously, I love being a Dodger, I love playing in Los Angeles. This is home for me,” Turner said. “But I do understand it’s also a business, and things happen and decisions are made that sometimes are out of our control.”
Instead, the Dodgers opted for J.D. Martinez, the designated hitter three years younger than Turner. Martinez got $10 million for one year for the suddenly payroll-conscious Dodgers, with Turner’s average annual value a reported $11 million with Boston.
Turner in October won the Roberto Clemente Award, given annually to the player who best exemplifies the spirit of the late Hall of Famer both on and off the field. In a Zoom conference call after winning the award, Turner — who was born in Long Beach, grew up in Lakewood, and went to college at Cal State Fullerton — mentioned how much playing for the Dodgers meant to him.
“Everything in my life feels like it has really taken off since the day I put the Dodger uniform on,” Turner said. “Obviously it’s very special to me, growing up in Southern California, getting to wear that jersey, and getting to be a part of an organization that has so much history and as so many people who have impacted the game in so many different ways. I’m just trying to do my little part.”
On the field, Turner’s part was integral to a Dodgers team that won 61.8 percent of its games in his nine years, a 100-win pace over a full season. Signed to a minor league deal as a utility man in 2014, Turner quickly became one of the Dodgers’ best hitters. By 2015 he was the regular third baseman.
In his time with the Dodgers, Turner hit .296/.375/.490 with a 136 wRC+. He’s kept that up during the postseason, hitting .270/.370/.460, a 128 wRC+ while holding franchise postseason records for home runs, hits, doubles, total bases, runs, RBI, walks, and hit by pitch.
Turner went through free agency twice previously since joining the Dodgers, both times taking a good chunk of the offseason before a deal was struck to return. He signed a four-year, $64-million contract with the Dodgers in mid-December 2016, then at the end of that deal inked a two-year, $34-million pact with Los Angeles in February 2021, on the eve of spring training.
That last contract included a $16-million club option for 2023, which was declined by the Dodgers on November 10, making Turner a free agent.
Turner hit .278/.350/.438 for the Dodgers in 2022, a 123 wRC+ with 36 doubles and 13 home runs in 128 games, starting 66 games at third base and 61 more at designated hitter. It was a tale of two seasons for Turner, who hit .217/.290/.344 with an 80 wRC+ in his first 69 games, but then hit .349/.419/.549 in his final 59 games with a 174 wRC+ that ranked third in the majors during that time, trailing only Aaron Judge and Albert Pujols.
In that November 17 interview on AM 570, Turner also mentioned the Dodgers considering the competitive balance tax consequences of potential moves this offseason, especially with increased tax rates after the team went over the threshold in each of the last two seasons.
“I think they’re trying to figure out what they need to do, and prioritize what’s best for them,” he said. “Once those chips fall, we’ll see where I stand, so I guess I gotta be patient.”
The final chip to fall, it appears, was the Dodgers opting for Martinez.
In 14 major league seasons with the Orioles, Mets, and Dodgers, Turner is a .289/.366/.466 hitter with a 129 wRC+, 164 home runs, and 292 doubles.