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Dodgers: Justin Turner or DJ LeMahieu? Who Fits Better By The Numbers?

If the Dodgers only sign one this offseason, should it be the iconic Justin Turner or the impressive DJ LaMahieu?



Reportedly dismayed by the New York Yankees’ approach to his free agency, DJ LeMahieu continues to explore other options. According to MLB insider Jon Heyman, it would still be a “surprise” if he signed elsewhere. That hasn’t stopped Dodger fans from dreaming of signing the two-time batting title champion.

But what about Justin Turner? Turner also remains unsigned and is reportedly seeking a four-year deal.

If the Dodgers front office had to pick between the two, which would be the better option for 2021 and beyond?

Regular Season Stats 2014-2020

Justin Turner

  • Slash Line: .302/.382/.503
  • OPS+: 139
  • HR: 116
  • RBI: 406
  • WAR: 28.9
  • dWAR: 3.1
  • Awards: All-Star (1), NLCS MVP (1), Top-10 in MVP Voting (2),World Series Champion (1)

DJ LeMahieu

  • Slash Line: .309/.365/.442
  • OPS+: 106
  • HR: 81
  • RBI: 424
  • WAR: 22.5
  • dWAR: 6.5
  • Awards: Gold Glove (3), All-Star (3), Silver Slugger (2), Batting Title (2), Top-5 in MVP Voting (2)

Despite LeMahieu’s prodigious last two seasons, Turner’s overall offensive body of work might be even better. Turner has hit for power and average without playing 81 games per year at Coors Field. JT owns the better OBP despite playing home games in a pitcher friendly park. Removing the park factor (OPS+) also suggests Turner’s superior performance at the plate.

Defensively, there isn’t much debate. LeMahieu’s three Gold Gloves and two Wilson DPOY Awards at second base dwarf Turner’s work with the leather.

A finalist for the Gold Glove in 2016, Turner lost to DJ’s defensively dominant teammate, Nolan Arenado.

Career Postseason Stats

Justin Turner (72 Games)

  • Slash Line: .295/.392/.507
  • HR: 12
  • RBI: 41

DJ LeMahieu (21 Games)

  • Slash Line: .272/.340/.424
  • HR: 3
  • RBI: 11

Considering Turner has played three and half times more playoff games, the counting stats aren’t exactly fair. However, Turner also bests DJ in all three slash line categories.

The numbers alone don’t tell the story of Turner’s legendary Dodger playoff performances: the walk-off homer against the Cubs in the 2017 NLCS, back-to-back first inning homers versus the Rays in Games 3 and 4 of the 2020 World Series, and the immaculate double play against the Braves in Game 7 of the 2020 NLCS.

Turner’s past success has earned him a special place in Dodgers lore, but free agency is about the present and future. LeMahieu, four years younger than Turner at 32, has turned into a superstar and can play multiple defensive positions including third base. He should be entering his prime production years. Turner could be exiting his. 

Turner’s defense continues to erode and he’s played in 140 games just once as a Dodger (2016). LeMahieu has averaged 146 games played since 2014. As the cliche goes, sometimes your best ability is availability.

The Dodgers would surely miss Turner’s leadership, but the odds are, LeMahieu will be the better player over the next several seasons and worth a more long-term investment.

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Written by Eric Eulau

Born and raised in Ventura, not "Ven-CH-ura", California. Favorite Dodger Stadium food is the old school chocolate malt with the wooden spoon. Host of The Series Sweep Podcast (@EEulau).

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  1. Look at the total statistical package – Turner’s career offense is substantially better than LeMahieu; 130 wRC+ to 100. LeMahieu a much better defensive player. If Turner will take a two year deal with third year option that vests by number of plate appearances in second year, then he is by far the better option for the team.

      • So what. Plenty of players have excelled after age 35, and Turner’s swing is effortless. Take a look at the career of Harold Baines who had great years through age 40. Yes, he was a DH during that period, but there is no doubt that the DH will be in the NL no later than 2022. Dusty Baker, Steve Garvey, Davey Lopes continued to hit well when they were 36 and 37 years old. If you are concerned about age, LeMahieu will be playing at age 38 in his fifth year, age 37 in fourth year.

        • So what? His numbers, both defensively and offensively are dropping each season. You can’t say look at Satchel Page and make a comparison with any other player. Plus he has bad knees that might deteriorate ate a faster rate as he ages. I’d love to have Turner back on a 2 year contract but the odds of LeMahieu holding up on a longer contract are better. However, it seems obvious that if the Yankees make an offer to his liking, he’s signing with them

          • First, reread my comment, I am advocating based on a two year deal with third year option that requires Turner to reach games played and/or plate appearances for vesting. No way would I give him a four, or even three year guarantee. In 2020 Turner had a 140 wRC+ — not what is once was, but that is 40% above the ML average. I am convinced that the NL will have the DH in 2022, and believe it will happen in 2021. I like Turners swing mechanics and approach; he is one of those guys who will hit when he is 40.

    • Again, you’re thinking with your heart instead of your head. Turner will not keep this pace up-in fact-he’s predicted to hit .291/17/58 this year with a .836 OPS and 2.9 WAR. LeMahieu is slated to hit .310/24/87 with a .908 OPS and 5.4 WAR. LeMahieu is younger and is a better player than Turner now. He should produce if the Dodgers give him 5 years.

      • You completely missed the point — “…if Turner will take a two year deal with option that vests…” where are you getting the projections? Fangraphs projects LeMahieu at 3.4, Turner at 3.2 WAR in 2021. In his career LeMahieu has a total of 19 WAR. Look at their careers, Turner has consistently been the superior offensive player. In two years the Dodgers will have some combination of Edwin Rios, Kody Hoese, or ??? in stead of Turner, or a 36 year old LeMahieu. Those are facts!

      • I’m not sure where you’re seeing those projections – I don’t see them with ZiPS, Steamer, or anything on RotoChamp. In fact most predictions have JT outperforming Lemahieu in every offensive stat but BA. DJ holds a slight edge in WAR for his defense.

        I don’t know how anyone who watched the recent World Series (or season for that matter) can claim evidence of or expect JT to slowdown 2021.

        • Here’s your evidence. In 2020, Turner’s batting average against pitches 95mph or faster .182, slugging % .227. His bat is slowing down, he can’t catch up to velo, and those numbers are scary for giving him a multi-year contract. And as far as slowing down on the bases, anybody who watched him hobble around the bases last season can see his legs are shot, he’s got both knee and hamstring issues. A 2 year contract would be super generous at this point.

          • Hmmm … thank you for that. Anecdotally I agree high heat has got him not only last year but the previous year as well. I’ll take a look. As far as speed on the bases, I don’t recall him ever being particularly fast but he’s always been a smart runner and, fortunately, speed isn’t a hugh requirement for 3rd.

  2. If they do sign DJ to a 4-year deal, he will be Turner’s current age at the end of this contract. We like Turner (my wife calls him Keebler Man), but at what point do you become honest with yourself and take away the emotional decision and look at the facts for the next four years? You are not re-signing Turner because of what he’s done; you’re signing a player based on what they will do (projected, anyway) for the foreseeable years. The non-emotional decision is DJ…

  3. I’m a little surprise and disappointed that Turner is asking for a four year deal. Maybe it’s just a bargaining ploy.If he gets if from another team I wish him well.

    • You nailed it; he and his agent are negotiating. He doesn’t get any brownie points for being realistic in his opening negotiation demands. Yes indeed, if one of the Braves, Nationals, Cardinals, Blue Jays blink and give him 4, or even 3, guaranteed years wish him well and move on.

  4. Well hopefully a signing will be done soon. But Kike also will need to be replaced by another RHB as well. Rios and McKinsey are fine BUT are LHB on a roster that’s somewhat heavy on the left side of the batters box even without Joc. As for the DH, there’s no reason that it shouldn’t be there in 2021 as well. Pitchers will need the same protection as in 2020 and they haven’t had to pick up a bat in over a year now. Not only that, but if the pitcher has to bat it effectively weakens the latter half of the Dodger lineup. Barnes had a better offensive showing in 2020 in part because he had Betts hitting behind him in the lead off spot. With Barnes batting 8th in front of the pitcher I just can’t see him doing as well through no fault of his own.

  5. This is a lame article. Justin’s best years are wayyy behind him…Comparing stats from 2014-16?!?!? Why not compare stats from last two years? DJ is the more wise choice if a deal has to be 3+ years. I would not give JT anything more than a 1 year contract at this point. JT has done a lot for the Dodgers, but I truly believe he fits better in AL at this point in his career.

    • On what basis do you claim wayyy behind him? His 2020 numbers were consistent with his last 5 years. But I agree – forget ’14 – ’16 and just look at ’17 – ’20 and consider Lemahieu’s numbers in the short ’20 season far exceeded anything he produced in his career previously.

      JT is a 2 year plan to get to Hoese. If Hoese doesn’t pan out, the Dodgers will look for other options then.

  6. Turner is the better person and he is a leader and has leadership qualities for the hold team. He needs to be a dodger for the the rest of he career and then retire. give him what he wants because he is a better player that DJ from the Yankees.

  7. Keep Turner AND get DJ… Move Turner to 2B, put DJ at 3B… As he ages, Turner’s arm and speed will fit better at 2B, and still keep his bat in the lineup…

  8. My guess is at some point Turner will realize that perhaps no MLB team will offer him those 4 years and if he has any desire to return to the Dodgers, that 2 year deal with a possible team option for year 3 would be a deal he will accept. But at some point a decision must be made to move on if JT continues to wait for that 4 year offer.

  9. I see Friedman being patient, smart & accommodating to JT (& other FA Dodger players). And I can see JT on a 2 yr + MO 3rd to be the DH & utility at 3B; but I can see Friedman sweeping in on DJ for $100 ML+ Multi-year deal for 3B & utility INF if he isn’t playing LAD for leveraging NYY offer! Also see a possibility Friedman gets LH RP (Hand?) for 2 yr deal close to Treinen numbers! Luxury Threshold no worry as compliant for a few years for reset penalties(lowest “tax”!) plus big chunks coming off at end of ‘21 Season($80+ ML). LAD are one of most advanced Pro Franchises in Sports! PHI BETA CAPPA GROUP! LAD in great hands at helm!

  10. We need to finish this, the Dodgers need to sign or offer Dj 4 years, offering more money then the Yankees, or sign him for 5 and give him just a bit more $ then the Yankees, and we should land him, other then that he is going back to the Yanks? As for Turner we all know no team in their right mind would sign JT to 4 years, but I do want him for 2 years,, and then make him a bench coach, he has already said he would like to coach for the Dodgers, after his retirement? Last we should sign Brad Hand, and we are complete. Mack all due respect this is baseball, and every team wants to beat the Dodgers, especially the Padres, so stop thinking with your heart, no one would say your wrong, but we are the Dodgers and we want to win!!

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