On Monday, rumors swirled involving long-time Dodger and current free agent Justin Turner’s asking price this offseason. Right off the bat, fans had to do a double-take after seeing that the 36-year-old was reportedly seeking a 4-year deal. The Dodgers countered with 2 years.
Again, JT is 36.
Despite his age, the veteran remains one of the elite hitters in the game. Since 2018, Turner has posted a 142 wRC+ over 280 regular season games. However, in each season he’s missed time with a myriad of injuries limiting his games played. Still — even while off and on injured — the red dream provides perhaps his greatest value to the Dodgers in his clubhouse presence and leadership.
Something that likely won’t carry over as well with a different ballclub.
Turner has been a Dodger for 7 seasons, riding the highs and lows along the way. But importantly, he did it with these guys, not other guys.
So we wonder what value a 36-year-old third baseman with declining mobility has outside of Los Angeles. And we wonder, is there any team out there truly willing to pay him through his age 40 season?
Last offseason, veteran third baseman and former AL MVP Josh Donaldson secured a 4-year, $92 million deal with the Twins as a 34-year-old free agent. In the past, designated hitter Victor Martinez signed a 4-year deal with the Tigers as a 35-year-old.
But no major leaguer has ever inked a 4-year contract as a 36-year-old.
Hall of Famer Derek Jeter came close, signing a 3-year deal with the Yankees as a 36-year-old in 2011. And noted cheater Carlos Beltran also got a 3-year deal with New York at 36 (so he could refine his cheating). So Justin Turner is stepping into rarified air with his asking price.
The problem is, he’s not going to get it.
At best, JT might ink a 3-year deal — perhaps with LA, perhaps with Toronto, who he’s been linked to this winter — but more likely 2 years with an option (team or mutual) gets him playing anywhere he wants.
Considering the strong likelihood that the universal DH will be in place by the 2022 season — if there’s a 2022 season at all — the Dodgers could likely bite the bullet in retaining a living LA legend for two or three more seasons with the expectation of phasing him into a DH/utility role. But would that put the club in the best position to continue its run of excellence in the National League?