Why the Dodgers Need to Re-Sign Justin Turner - Even if it Means a 3 Year Deal
He's the all-time Dodgers leader in postseason hits and home runs. He's one of the greatest 3rd baseman in franchise history. He's one of the greatest hitters and 3rd baseman in Dodger history. He's the current team's leader. He's the captain. But now... he's a free agent. As odd as it might seem, Justin Turner's not on the Dodgers anymore. However, the team wants to, and needs to, remedy that.
While Turner's hitting the open market heading into his age 37 season, he's been consistently one of the best offensive 3rd baseman in baseball. His slash line over the past few years has been remarkably consistent. Obviously, he's declined slightly as he's gotten older, especially in the slugging department, but that decline is minor enough when coupled with how good a hitter he is that it doesn't indicate any sort of imminent Chris-Davis-esqe drop-off in performance.
His OPS in a "down" 2020 season was still well, well above league-average at .860 in 2020. There's no evidence from his traditional offensive statistics that Turner's inevitable offensive decline over the next 2-3 years will hamper him from still being an extremely productive hitter, even if he gets a little worse.
Additionally, Turner's 2020 statcast percentiles confirm that his consistency and quality of contact are still at the elite level; it's not a fluke in a small sample size, possibly indicating an imminent drop-off in performance. No, it's real. Turner's still an incredible hitter, and there's no signs that he'll be slowing down any time soon.
However, you'll notice in both sprint speed and out above average, a defensive statistic, Turner's well below average at 3rd base; no surprise given his age. While his defense likely is going to continue to decline along with his speed, I don't worry about this too much because the DH looming in the NL next year if not this year. While, yes, the Dodgers might lose a couple of runs over at 3rd base in 2020 with Turner there, his offensive production and leadership outweigh it in my opinion. Additionally, as we saw in the playoffs, he does still have the baseball IQ and athleticism to make great plays, he just isn't consistent, especially with his throwing. However, Edwin Rios, Chris Taylor, and Max Muncy are all fine options to play 3rd if Turner stops being able to in a year or 2 until Kody Hoese or Michael Busch is ready from the minor leagues.
Injuries are another concern with Turner, as they are with all players his age. He crowds the plate and gets hit with many pitches as a result, even breaking his wrist in 2018 Spring Training. Yes, he's always seemingly dealing with a minor injury or missing a few weeks with a leg issue, but when he's on the field, his presence just infuses the lineup with an unmatched professionalism and he flat-out rakes. Yes, the injuries will come, but given how good the Dodgers are, he only needs to be 100% good to go in October.
Along with the tremendous offense, Turner's a, THE, team leader, at least with regards to the offense. The AB quality and the ability to situationally hit is unmatched on the team and would be a shame to lose. Additionally, his right-handed-ness is invaluable on a team with a largely lefty lineup, especially with regards to stars Max Muncy, Cody Bellinger, and Corey Seager.
It's been reported that Turner wants a 3 year contract from the Dodgers and that the Dodgers want to bring him back, as Andrew Friedman and Dave Roberts have both confirmed. However, fans seemed somewhat divided, so I ran a poll on twitter and many seem to agree that Turner should come back, even if it means signing him to a 3 year deal.
Well, I agree with the majority! Even if it means getting 1 year of significantly diminished production, it's worth it for the clubhouse presence and the first 1.5-2 years. While I don't think it will end up coming down to this, as usually contract demands just start out as negotiating tactics, if Turner won't waver, I'd give him the 3 year deal.
However, I'd expect him to end up signing for 2 years, 20-30 million dollars, with maybe a mutual option, as he grew up a Dodgers fan and lives in LA. He doesn't want to go anywhere else, but the Dodgers should make sure he doesn't.
Regardless, the captain needs to come back. He's too big a part of the team's culture and success to play anywhere else.
Statistics gathered from Baseball Reference and Baseball Savant respectively
Photo Credit: Jon SooHoo