I think most of us (and baseball) assume Justin Turner will be back with the Dodgers for another year or two. He’s 36 and probably isn’t too eager to play elsewhere in the last few years of his MLB career.
However, it isn’t a 100% lock that he’s back with the Dodgers for 2021 and beyond. With that, let’s take a look at some of the potential third base options to replace him.
You could look at guys like Maikel Franco or Marwin Gonzalez as options, but they wouldn’t really be better than what the Dodgers already have internally. It comes down to two free agents.
The Korea Baseball Organization phenom has officially been posted and projects as a solid left side of the infield guy. If he were signed by the Dodgers, he’d slot in at third base, as he wouldn’t displace Corey Seager at shortstop.
The 25-year-old’s present/future grades from FanGraphs are as follows:
- Hit: 45/50
- Game Power: 40/45
- Raw Power: 50/50
- Speed: 60/60
- Field: 50/50
- Future Value: 50
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Kim, a right-handed hitter, is coming off a 2020 season in which he hit .306/.397/.523 with 30 home runs, a 141 wRC+ and more walks (75, 12.1%) than strikeouts (68, 10.9%). Not a dissimilar offensive profile to Turner’s. Of course, it remains to be seen how his offense translates from the KBO to MLB, but he might be worth the investment — somewhere in the neighborhood of 4-5 years at $50-60 million, plus the posting fee.
The LeMahieu rumor is one that just won’t go away, even if it isn’t terribly prominent. It’s easy to see why the Dodgers would like Le Mahieu’s bat in the lineup, but the fact he has increased his utility by playing a solid third base (on top of a Gold Glove second base) makes him a legitimate option for the Dodgers.
In his two years with the Yankees, he has hit .336/.386/.536 with a 146 wRC+ while maintaining his elite bat control. I’m going to go more into depth on LeMahieu in a different post, but I could see the Dodgers turning to him if Turner signs/wants to sign elsewhere.
This is the big one. I wrote about Arenado last month, and while it still doesn’t seem likely, it’s going to be a thing until it isn’t.
The talk of him being non-tendered never really passed the smell test with me, but the Cubs are definitely shopping him to save money. You know, the lowly Chicago Cubs.
Bryant, 29 next month, is coming off an injury-riddled (back, wrist) season that saw him hit just .206/.293/.351 with an ugly 76 wRC+. The 2016 NL MVP is still capable of playing at that level, as long as he’s healthy. He’s projected to make $18.6 million in his final season of arbitration, so the investment wouldn’t be small. I’m not sure he’d be the long-term solution at third base (with the looming Seager extension, hopefully), but for 2021, the Dodgers could do far worse. And they could probably get him for pennies on the dollar. The only thing that concerns me is he’s never been a plus-defender at third base. Hell, he’s been barely average at times. But he does have positional flexibility (1B, LF, RF), and we know the Dodgers love that.
“Wait a minute, Lindor plays shortstop. Are you saying he’d play third base if he were acquired?” Nope.
Lindor, 27, is the only player who could force a Seager move to third base, as Lindor is one of the game’s preeminent defensive shortstops. His offense slumped a bit last season, but it’s fun to dream of a Lindor/Seager left side with them hitting back-to-back in the lineup. He’s a free agent after the season and, like Bryant, would probably be a short-term solution. The acquisition cost shouldn’t be too high seeing as Cleveland is desperate to trim payroll. Lindor projects to make as much as $21.5 million in his final year of arbitration.
McKinstry has been a favorite within the Dodgers’ organization over the last couple years and he’s set to take an active roster spot in 2021. I’m not sure he’s a full-time third baseman, but he could definitely log some time there — even if Turner comes back.
Muncy’s metrics have looked better than the eye test, when it comes to defense. Still, he came up as a third baseman and if the Dodgers don’t think they have a better internal option to play the hot corner and don’t fill it externally, Muncy might be the guy.
Rios might be the most interesting and likely. His power is unquestioned, even against left-handed pitching. In his first 139 plate appearances over his first two seasons, he has hit .260/.338/.634 with a 152 wRC+. I don’t think anyone thinks he’s that good, but the Dodgers, obviously, have confidence in the 26-year-old. Remember, he filled in for Turner at third base in the eighth inning of Game 6 of the World Series.
It’s hard to handicap who might be the most likely to replace Turner, should it be necessary, but I’m going to give it a shot. This isn’t who I want, but who I think is most realistic.
Rios is the simplest answer, but I do believe the LeMahieu interest is real. Muncy would make sense, as the Dodgers have other options at first base. Bryant would be a medium-risk/high-reward 1-year option. Lindor would just be flat-out fun. Arenado might be the guy they want the most, but also might be the most unrealistic external option because the Rockies are a dumpster fire. McKinstry fits better as a super utility player to pair with a guy like Chris Taylor.
Ahh, who am I kidding? All these guys (save Arenado) would just be keeping the hot corner warm until Miguel Vargas is ready.