OK, this is getting a bit ridiculous. While there’s still some uncertainty as to when Spring Training will actually begin, let’s just — for argument’s sake — say we’re about three weeks from pitchers and catchers reporting. While that’s not overly ridiculous, the fact Justin Turner has not been re-signed kinda is. When he was a free agent after the 2016 season, Turner was re-signed before Christmas. I know times are different now, but this is still a head-scratcher.
We know Turner is looking for more than a 2-year deal. He wants a 4-year deal from a non-Dodger team, while the Dodgers don’t want to beyond two years. Much like life, the the answer lies in the middle.
The Dodgers and Turner should both be interested in a 3-year pact. For the Dodgers, an extra year could reduce the average annual value of the deal, which is used to calculate the competitive balance tax. Instead of a 2-year, $26-30 million deal, a 3-year, $30-36 million deal would be good for both sides.
Note: If you haven’t read Andy McCullough’s piece on the CBT and why teams are hesitant to go over it, do yourself a favor and do so.
Turner would get his last big contract and three years of security, the Dodgers would get one of their clubhouse leaders back, despite his — for lack of a better term — faux pas, following the Dodgers’ World Series victory. He won’t find a better place, geographically, as a native Southern Californian and he won’t find a better place to go after another title. You have to think if he had a 4-year offer out there from another team, he would have taken it already.
The Dodgers have been on the hunt for at least one right-handed-hitting infielder. They were interested in DJ LeMahieu before he re-signed with the Yankees. They’ve been rumored to like Marcus Semien, but he wouldn’t make as much sense as strictly a Turner replacement. Kris Bryant and Eugenio Suarez have been mentioned, but it doesn’t seem like there’s much traction there. And Nolan Arenado is still out there, but the Rockies have no clue what they’re doing. The Dodgers’ interest in Marcell Ozuna and maybe Nelson Cruz (designated hitter-dependent) could make sense if Turner doesn’t end up coming back, but neither of them are playing third base.
So this is really an Occam’s Razor situation — the simplest solution is usually best. The simplest solution in this case is to re-sign Turner to a 3-year deal and wait for official word about the permanent DH coming to the NL (it’ll be here in the next Collective Bargaining Agreement at the latest). If it is, go sign Ozuna or Cruz as well, because the Dodgers are almost certainly going over the luxury tax threshold anyway, and try to run it back. If not, you have Turner and maybe you grab Semien to be an everyday utility man (somewhat oxymoronic, I know). Or just give Gavin Lux a chance to prove his 2020 was impacted by COVID-19 and not that he took a big step backward after catapulting near the top of baseball’s prospect rankings.
One way or another, this situation should be resolved as soon as possible. The longer Turner is a free agent, the less likely it is he returns. I trust Andrew Friedman has a plan and if they want to move on from Turner, fine, I’m sure there’s sound reasoning behind it. But it just seems like bringing him back makes the most sense.