Toronto Blue Jays: Why the interest in Justin Turner?
With the Toronto Blue Jays diving headfirst into the free agent rumour mill, third baseman Justin Turner has piqued the interest of the Jays management team.
Fresh off a World Series win with the Los Angeles Dodgers, third baseman Justin Turner is now a free agent and is starting to generate some interest from teams across the league. The Toronto Blue Jays recently joined in on the fun, contacting the third baseman amongst a host of other free agents since free agency began this winter.
Drafted in the seventh round in 2006 by the Cincinnati Reds, Turner would spend a short time with the Baltimore Orioles and three years with the New York Mets before joining the Dodgers in 2014 on a minor league contract. Since joining L.A., Turner’s career has taken off, as he has seen his slash line rise to .302/.382/.503 with 116 home runs and 406 RBI while also earning an All-Star appearance in 2017.
Why Turner makes sense as a Blue Jay
With last season’s third baseman Travis Shaw most likely being cut loose this off-season, the Blue Jays will potentially be entering next season with a lack of options at the hot corner.
Vladimir Guerrero Jr. moved across the diamond last season, and if the Blue Jays decide to keep him there, the team will most likely have to use either Cavan Biggio or Santiago Espinal to man the hot corner unless they pick up a free agent. Biggio isn’t a bad option at third, but I don’t think the Blue Jays really envision him there as a long-term solution, while Espinal just doesn’t have a ton of experience at the hot corner in both the MLB or as a professional. The Blue Jays do have some prospects coming down the pipeline in Jordan Groshans and Austin Martin who could be utilized at third base, but they are most likely a year or two away from potentially joining the active roster given the shortened 2020 season.
Another reason Turner makes sense in a Blue Jays uniform is his veteran leadership and post-season experience. Considering the organization is coming off a rebuild and sits on the younger side compared to other MLB teams, a veteran like Turner could be a boost for the organization given his experience. He has postseason and World Series experience under his belt, which isn’t a bad thing to have amongst a younger crowd eager to learn. It also doesn’t hurt that the Long Beach native has been quite impressive with a bat in his hands since joining the Dodgers, and the Blue Jays wouldn’t have to surrender any draft picks if he chooses to sign North of the border this off-season (as he could not be offered a qualifying offer because he received one in 2016).
Why the Blue Jays should be cautious of signing Turner
Last season was Turner’s final season in a four-year, $64 million contract he signed with the Dodgers back before the 2017 season. Coming off a World Series win and a pretty successful seven-year tenure in L.A., Turner will be looking to cash in on the free-agent market given that he will be one of the more experienced third base options this off-season. He most likely won’t earn the $20 million he got in 2020 moving forward, but his stats do prove that he can still hit with the rest of them and could get a sizeable deal this winter. Ponying up somewhere between $10 to 15 million a year for Turner would be a bit of a gamble given he is at the older end of the scale at 36 years old, but he could be utilized as a DH if needed, which kind of negates the reasoning the Blue Jays would need in signing him if they need someone to manage the bulk of third base starts moving forward.
Another reason to be cautious of Turner is his defensive ability, which is arguably not going to get better with age. His ability to play the field is still there, although a bit shaky as his past two seasons had a -3 and -1 defensive runs saved (respectively) when it came to manning the hot corner. The durability is also something to be cautious of, as he has landed on the injured list the past few seasons with multiple lower-body injuries to his groin and hamstring.
Where do we go from here?
Adding Justin Turner to the Blue Jays batting lineup would make the team better on paper, it is just his age/durability that is the biggest cause for concern. You will most likely see Turner go from a third baseman/infielder to a designated hitter within the next 2-3 years, which isn’t a bad idea unless his bat decides to stay in sunny California and he is on a long-term contract.
This one is a bit of a toss-up personally, but if the financials aren’t way in left field and the Blue Jays can offer a 2-3 year bridge deal to allow a prospect like Groshans/Martin to develop and take over for the long-term, then I can see the organization pulling the trigger. I could also see a four year contract with a team option in the third year being a solid option as well, barring extreme financial ask from the right-hander.
On the flip side, if the age does hinder his ability and that bat does go cold over time, a deal like the one mentioned above could look bad if the Jays are paying $10-15 million a year for a guy who isn’t putting the bat on the ball and is struggling defensively. Another potential wrench in the plan is the possibility that he resigns with L.A., which would make sense given his performance since joining the organization has pretty much been sunshine and rainbows.
Do you think the Blue Jays should take a shot at Justin Turner this off-season?