Justin Turner’s free agency looms large over the Los Angeles Dodgers. Turner’s well documented career resurgence in Los Angeles culminated in a championship for the ages this season. The only blemish of course was Turner’s controversial decision to return to the field to celebrate with his teammates after being notified, in game, that he had tested positive for COVID-19.
Following a full investigation by MLB, Turner will not be suspended nor fined. He’ll be available to play for the Dodgers, or any team, come Opening Day 2021.
Part of Turner’s notoriety lies in his career blossoming much later than most. He didn’t find success until his age 30 season. For many athletes, 30 is the beginning of the end. For JT, 30 was a launch pad that catapulted him to stardom.
For that very reason, Turner has only had one opportunity to maximize his value on the free agent market. Most baseball players of his stature sign two or three sizable contracts in their careers. He has signed but one – $64M over four years in 2016. This writer will happily trade him bank accounts, but amongst his age group of All-Star caliber third baseman over 30, he’s a little short in the wallet.
- Josh Donaldson (Age 34) $164.3M
- Evan Longoria (35) $139.2M
- Pablo Sandoval (34) $113.6M
- Kyle Seager (33) $101.5M
- Justin Turner (35) $79.6M
Career earnings information from Baseball-Reference.com
It’s easy to get lost in the romanticism of Justin Turner’s Dodger career, but there’s a very real possibility that team president Andrew Friedman doesn’t offer more than a two-year deal above market value. You don’t win Executive of the Year for re-signing 35-year-old third baseman to bloated four-year contracts.
In a situation with much uncertainty, this is absolutely Turner’s last chance to get paid.
Fans will bemoan the Guggenheim group for not shelling out for their beloved fire headed star, but this is a business after all. Nobody should fault JT for signing elsewhere for more money than the Dodgers offer. Conversely, nobody should fault the Dodgers for choosing not to overpay an oft-injured corner infielder entering his age 36 season.
This won’t snowball into a Fox ownership-Piazza level feud if the two sides can’t agree. JT was a cornerstone of the Dodgers first title since 1988 (in case you forgot). He’s a legend. Forever part of Dodger lore.
The much adored LA native will be greeted with open arms at Dodger Stadium, regardless of where his career ends.