Three years removed from being non-tendered by the New York Mets, Justin Turner is about to hit a big payday.
At 32 years old and coming off the best season of his career, Turner is entering the free agent market as one of its top overall players and the best third baseman by a long shot. For some reason, I think he will get more than a minor league deal this time around.
Although he started the 2016 season slowly— .235/.335/.343, 90 wRC+ through May — Turner led the Los Angeles Dodgers in home runs and played a part in 151 games, by far the most in his career. He bumped his season slash up to .275/.339/.493 by season’s end, giving him a career-best .218 isolated power rating.
Turner’s defense improved overall in 2016, a full 11.5 bump in UZR. Most of that comes from a 97.4 percent rate when it comes to routine plays, according to Inside Edge scouting.
Although the Dodgers were knocked earlier than they wanted, they could not have asked for much more out of Turner in the postseason. Turner had an incredible .286/.457/.541 slash in October and even flashed the leather a few times.
Turner may not have the bat of Yoenis Cespedes or Edwin Encarnacion or a 103-mph fastball, but he may be the best well-rounded free agent. He was a great clubhouse presence for the Dodgers, he led all free agents with a 5.6 fWAR in 2016, and he could fill a position the Cleveland Indians could use a bump at.
Or do they? That brings us to the downside of the signing: Something would have to be done about Jose Ramirez. The angry hamster was a breakout star in 2016, providing the Indians with clutch hitting and filling a huge void left by Michael Brantley. But Ramirez is not necessarily tied to third base.
Early metrics have Ramirez as an above-average defender at third base, and a bit below average when he spent time in left field. If the Indians did want to go out and get a big impact bat like Justin Turner, it would require some reshuffling for sure, whether that’s moving Jose Ramirez to a different spot or something more dramatic.
Unlike the first entry in this series, Jon Jay, Turner would also not come cheap. MLB Trade Rumors estimates his contract at around five years and $85 million; he also received a qualifying offer so signing him would mean the Indians forfeit a draft pick as well.
The Indians dealing out that kind of contract would definitely be a signal that they are all-in for a World Series, but I cannot see them doing it.