Seven years… where does the time go? On February 5, 2014, then Dodgers GM Ned Colletti was putting the finishing touches on a ballclub looking to win its second consecutive NL West crown. The team had reached an agreement with free agent infielder Justin Turner on a minor league deal with an invitation to spring training.
The Dodgers won 92 games in 2013 with an unbalanced offensive attack featuring aging veterans as depth pieces on the bench. Finally with money to spend (thank you, Guggenheim), Ned added some key pieces to fill out his roster for 2014.
Some flamed out… Brian Wilson, Chone Figgins, Erisbel Arruebarrena…
Some played key roles… J.P. Howell, Jamey Wright, Dan Haren…
But no one did what Justin Turner has done over the last seven seasons… all on a minor league contract.
Since the 2014 season, JT carved his way from minor league deal to Dodger legend with the bat and the glove. From utility guy to starting third baseman to locker room leader. When life-long Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis was shockingly traded by the club late in 2016, he declared that the LA clubhouse now belonged to Turner.
Justin Turner has become the voice of this club. Not just in that clubhouse, but on the field, the way he plays every single day. He’s a guy who’s really stepped up and become the guy we all look to.
From minor league contract to clubhouse leader to NL All-Star to helping lead the Dodgers to their first World Series in 29 years. One of the most iconic home runs in LA postseason history came off the bat of Justin Turner. He connected on a 92 mile-per-hour John Lackey fastball and sent it over the centerfield wall to walk off at home against the Chicago Cubs 29 years to the day that Kirk Gibson set a course for LA’s improbable 1988 World Series championship.
Extended Cut of Turner’s walk-off three-run homer
From minor league contract to postseason hero to World Series champion.
The championship drought lasted 32 years for Los Angeles. Aged, beaten and battered, Justin Turner made sure he was on that field every single night for his teammates. As his knees ached, as the bruises from a franchise-leading 78 hit by pitches peppered his body… as he slowed, the bat stayed elite and the message became clearer.
From minor league contract to Dodger legend to… free agent.
Here seven years to the day later, the man that has meant so much to the Dodgers and the city of Los Angeles remains on the open market. Perhaps today is the day he re-signs. But he’s 36 years old now and the business of baseball is cruel. He wants his final big contract and he wants it in LA. But history and the numbers show that’s a bad deal for the Dodgers. You don’t pay someone to play until they’re 40ish anymore.
The game has changed.
But sometimes, when someone has given so much of themselves to you you have to honor that, respect that, and repay that.
Happy anniversary, Justin. Hope to see you back in blue soon.