Where is the first place your mind goes after reading that name? To many, it evokes the viral image of the smoothest slide to ever grace a baseball diamond.
He’s so much more than that, of course. Though still underrated nationally, fans of the Washington Nationals will tell you he was an integral part of their 2019 World Series run, while the Los Angeles Dodgers faithful know what he means to their quest for another ring.
Turner is one of the sport’s most dynamic and virtuosic talents, and he’s on the verge of testing the waters of free agency.
It’s going to require a nine-figure payday to reel in Turner. The 29-year-old is one of just five shortstops in baseball history with at least 120 home runs, 220 stolen bases, and an on-base percentage of .350 or higher. Among the five, only Turner and Derek Jeter have managed to do so while maintaining a batting average of over .300.
Defensively, Turner has showcased multi-positional potential, breaking into the big leagues as a shortstop/second base shuffler. He also had a 45-game moonlighting in center field in a breakout 2016 that saw him post a 142 OPS+ over 72 games played. Upon being traded to the Dodgers in a blockbuster along with Max Scherzer, Turner again found himself assuming second base duties to co-exist with impending free agent shortstop Corey Seager.
With Seager now out of the picture, Turner has been the everyday shortstop in L.A. throughout 2022 and performed at his typically excellent level. Given their past history and wealth of resources, you count out the possibility that his current employer will make the highest bid to retain his services.
But the team that may need him the most resides a mere hour away from his hometown of Boynton Beach, Florida: the Miami Marlins.
The Case For
Longtime Marlins shortstop Miguel Rojas, while productive in his parts of eight seasons with the club (11.2 rWAR), owns a career-adjusted OPS+ of 87 (100 represents league average). A hitter with modest power and speed to begin with, that figure will likely gradually be trending down as he approaches his mid-30s. Rojas pales in comparison to Turner and his 124 OPS+.
Turner has garnered a reputation for his durability. Between 2018-2021 and excluding the 60-game shortened 2020—he played in 59 of those 60 games for what it’s worth—Turner has averaged 144 games played in that span. He has played in all 105 Dodgers games this season despite the team being well-positioned in the standings to give him rest if he needed it.
Turner brings important intangibles, too. His combination of electric style of play, broad skillset and track record of contributing to winning is a marketing director’s dream, even earning praise from fellow stars of the sport.
Bryce just said Trea Turner is his favorite player in the league and it’s not even close— Jack Fritz (@JackFritzWIP) August 5, 2022
Imagining Turner paired next to Jazz Chisholm Jr., a burgeoning star in his own right, would give Miami among the more exciting middle infields in the Majors, and could definitely serve as means of improving fan turnout. Going back to the start of 2018, Miami has finished last in attendance in all but one season: 2022, a year where they currently rank 29th with only Oakland averaging fewer fans per game.
The Case Against
On the open market, Turner has all the credentials to become one of the sport’s highest-paid players. His age and consistency merit a long-term deal and he won’t be satisfied with an average annual value at his current $21M salary—he may aim to double that. Front offices generally pay a premium for players like this because they seldom become available.
Turner is set to turn 30 on June 30 next season. Considering that and how much of his overall value is tied up in baserunning (which ages poorly), there will be some reluctance to offer him a lifetime contract. His relatively aggressive approach at the plate—his walk rate has ranked in the 15th and 22nd percentiles over the last two seasons—presents additional risk.
Hypothetical Offer: 7 years/$275M (club option for 2030)
More than a decade removed from the 6-year/$106M deal awarded to José Reyes—still the largest free agent contract in franchise history—the time is now for Bruce Sherman to truly open up the bank account and commit to a franchise-caliber player. He cannot cut corners for, say, a Dansby Swanson or the other cheaper shortstop alternatives who lack the tenacity and projectable top-end performance of Turner. Otherwise, the Marlins offense will continue to be no better than middle of the pack.
The above offer brings Turner to an AAV of approximately $39.3M, well north of the $35.1M being earned by the Twins’ Carlos Correa, and the $34.1M being paid to the Mets’ Francisco Lindor, setting the new standard for shortstops.
Would the Marlins go to those lengths for Turner, only a year after being outbid by the Mets for Starling Marte at half that AAV? It’s doubtful. But it would be negligent of them to ignore the availability of such an impactful player.