Does the Trevor Bauer signing make Justin Turner expendable?
The biggest free-agent domino, Trevor Bauer, has finally found a new home. It was announced earlier in the week that Bauer is heading to the Los Angeles Dodgers on a three-year deal worth $102 million. This signing has catapulted the Dodgers over the luxury Tax and now brings up an interesting question. Will the Dodgers re-sign fan favorite, Justin Turner? Before the Bauer signing, the Dodgers were the front runners to re-sign Turner, but will LA be willing to meet the veteran’s contract demands after handing Bauer 40 million for next season?
The team is already over the luxury tax and this is Turner’s last best chance at a big payday before he hangs up his cleats. Especially since Turner is the best free-agent third baseman left on the open market. But his asking price and age have made teams hesitant to pull the trigger. Washington is currently rolling with Carter Kieboom as the starting third baseman, but should they go all in and target Turner?
Justin Turner To Washington?
We have been back and forth all off-season on the Carter Kieboom conundrum and most recently, I have advocated for Washington to roll with Kieboom at third. He raked at Triple-A, hitting .303, with 16 homers, 79 RBIs, and an OPS of .902. But so far in 138 at-bats in the majors, he is hitting a meager .181, with two homers, 11 RBIs, and an OPS of .541. Washington has yet to give the 23-year-old a full opportunity in the majors and it shows. He has struggled to adjust at the plate, but his glove has come along nicely. A natural shortstop, Kieboom has learned third on the fly, posting 5 DRS in 2020. Washington’s moves this off-season were aimed at keeping their window open and while Kieboom deserves a full opportunity, signing Turner would help the Nationals win now.
Following joining the Dodgers in 2014, Turner has become one of the most consistent batters in the game. In seven seasons with the Dodgers, Turner is hitting .302, with 116 homers, 406 RBIs, and an OPS of .886. He would add a much needed right-handed bat for the middle of the lineup.
Turner’s defense has started to slowly degrade, but in his career at third, he has 22 DRS and a1.0 UZR. Since 2017, he has been worth 5 OOA (outs above average). In 2020, Washington ranked dead last in DRS and while Kieboom is a plus defender, Turner’s bat is well worth the switch. Washington has about a projected $16.4 million in cap space per Sportrac, which is enough room to add Turner without going over the tax.
A lineup including Juan Soto, Trea Turner, Kyle Schwarber, Josh Bell, and Turner would provide plenty of pop and would help Washington compete in an ever-increasingly talented NL East. However, should Washington abandon Kieboom in turn for Turner’s bat? Turner is a win-now move, while Kieboom has the potential to be a long-term cornerstone. Unfortunately, he has yet to put it all together.
Washington is in win-now mode and cannot afford Kieboom’s struggles to adjust holding the offense back. With Scherzer having one year left on his contract, Rizzo needs to pull the trigger now on Turner if he believes the team has a chance to go all the way.