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Dodgers: Why The Focus on Third Basemen

For all the trade talk surrounding the Dodgers this off-season, little has manifested. In fact, the biggest “splash” has been the re-signing of Rocky Gale to a minor league contract. So far, the big rumors have been the Dodgers targeting a right-handed power bat for third base.  The domino effect would of course shift Justin Turner to first base.  With Turner having hit a slightly regressed but still solid, .290/.372/.509 with 27 home runs in 2019, why are the Dodgers focused on replacing him at third a year before his contract expires?

Defense

It’s no secret that Justin Turner has lost a step defensively at third the last couple seasons, but last year it became more obvious. As a team, the 2019 Dodgers had the second fewest putouts, second fewest double plays, fourth lowest defensive runs saved, fifth lowest fielding percentage, and fifth most errors at third base in the National League. Justin Turner himself posted his lowest ever dWAR of -0.6. 

Furthermore, even though his 22 double plays turned were the second most in his career, it was significantly lower than Josh Donaldson and Anthony Rendon who the Dodgers have been targeting. They also turned the second and third most double plays, had the second & third most assists, and the third and fourth most putouts in the National League. Lastly, Donaldson and Rendon have respectable dWAR ratings that are not in the red.


More Turner at Dodgers Nation


Offense

As previously stated, Justin Turner’s offense wasn’t terrible by any means, but there is room for improvement. A .290 BA is certainly good, but it was actually Turner’s second lowest as a Dodger. His 24 doubles were also his second lowest as a Dodger, he’d only hit fewer (21) in 2014 when he had just 322 plate appearances. While his 27 home runs tied him for most in his career, he had just 67 RBIs to show from it. Only three players of the 71 that hit 27+ home runs, had the same or fewer RBIs. Lastly, his plate discipline has waned. In 2019, Turner struck out 88 times, up from the 54 and 56 strikes the previous two seasons.

While Justin Turner’s offensive production was decent, Rendon and/or Donaldson are certainly better assets at the position. Yes. Donaldson’s BA is lower and he did strike out more. He also hit walked a lot more, mashed 10 more home runs, and drove in 17 more RBIs. His .900 OPS was 8th best among top MLB third basemen. 

Anthony Rendon is what Turner would look like if Turner had found his swing and approach sooner in his career. Among top MLB third basemen, he has a third best 12.4 BB% coupled with a fifth best 13.3 K%, hit second most 2Bs (44), 8th most home runs (34), and led all of baseball with 126 RBIs. 

Injuries

Justin Turner has been marred by injuries the past few seasons. A fractured wrist followed by a groin strain in 2018 limited his appearances to just 103 games. Last season, he appeared in 135 games. Definitely more, but he was still listed as day-to-day four times with shin, hamstring, ankle, and back ailments. The fact that that he was never placed on the injured list despite four bouts with four different injuries, leads one to believe these are the pains of an aging player.

Justin Turner’s Impact

Justin Turner has been an key player since coming to the Dodgers in 2014. In that time he’s slashed .302/.381/.506 while averaging 18.6 home runs and 63.8 RBI. His 2014-2017 seasons were defensively sound — he was nominated for an NL Gold Glove — and he is a valued veteran presence in the clubhouse. That being said, Father Time is taking its toll.

The Dodgers still value his offensive production and that veteran presence, but it comes at a cost if he remains at third. 

Shifting Turner to first base removes some of the defensive liability, but it comes at a different cost.  Turner at first, pushes Muncy to second which leaves top prospect, Gavin Lux out. Lux has outgrown the minors and needs to have playing time at the Major League level in order to grow as a player. Therefore, if the Dodgers acquire a new third baseman, a first base platoon of Turner and Muncy can be foreseen. 

Final Thoughts

So who should the Dodgers acquire for third base?

In my opinion Anthony Rendon is the better long term candidate. Josh Donaldson is only year younger than Justin Turner. A similar visit from Father Time is likely to occur in another season or two, leaving the Dodgers on the hunt again by 2022. Rendon is currently 29 years old and the Dodgers could expect the next 4-5 years to be very productive. He is quality defender and is very good across the board in all offensive categories. While signing Rendon may be expensive the Dodgers don’t have a player in the minors that can match up any time soon. Alternately, the Dodgers could sign Donaldson for two years and hope that Nolan Arenado opts for free agency in 2022. 

As a fan, who would you like to see represent the Dodgers at third?

NEXT: Andrew Friedman Talks Big Name Free Agents

Written by Jason McClure

Technically a Dodgers bandwagon fan. At 5 years old, I decided they were my favorite team after hearing they won the World Series on my mom’s car radio in 1988. My father (technically my stepfather) watered that seed, teaching me the game and introducing me to the beauty of Dodger Stadium. We got to know each other and bonded over games. Even when we couldn’t get along during my teenage years, we could come together over Vin Scully’s voice and a game. Dodger baseball is, and will always be, so much more than just a game.

11 Comments

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  1. This is the best option, in my opinion. Yep, Rendon is one tough dude at third. But we have one tough dude also. Max Muncy. Just swap Justin and Max. Simple. Lux mans second, Corey mans short. Justin becomes our new David Freeze. Rios gets an opportunity to show his stuff. And—we use the cash saved for pitching. Rios could be an excellent player. He needs a better look than 50 at bats. We HAVE to let Lux go for it at second. He also has a chance to be a force. Can’t cut his playing time. Could be a HUGE mistake.

    • I just said the same thing. Turner was given his contract 5 years ago at the age of 30. Max Muncy is 29..Give him his 6 yr deal. He’s an awesome player and would accept the challenge in a heartbeat.
      We have a third baseman in Muncy. Why look any further. Then Lux can have 2nd and everyone’s happy!

  2. Well said Wayne Riddle.Plus has anyone considered that maybe Muncy can play left? Lux definitely needs to be given a chance to play everyday. The Dodgers have 2 guys being groomed to play 3rd base in 2-3 yrs so a short term solution is a better option.

  3. Well said Wayne I agree but the Dodgers still need another right handed bat that they need! Lux is another left handed batter. I would love to see Lindor in Dodger blue because he’s a switch hitter, can play everyday, a true leadoff hitter and brings high intensity to a Dodgers club that needs a boost in the playoffs. The rumors are the Indians want Lux instead of Seager. I don’t want to see Lux go but for Lindor I would definitely make that trade, move Seager to third and Muncy to second it makes the Dodgers lineup more dangerous!

  4. Regardless of they put on first base, there should have a left handed player there. To me, it is imperative that a left handed player, especially if there’s a runner trying to steal. I’ve seen a few runners that could be been out trying to steal if there was a left handed player. With a right handed player the runner has enough time to get back to the bag.because when the pitcher throws the ball, and it’s in the glove, he has to swing that glove to try to tag the runner. By that time, the runner has his hand or hands on the bag. On the other hand, if the first baseman has the ball in the glove and (right hand) he swings to tag the runner so he’s out.it only takes about half a second, at least. No?

  5. Move Muncy or Seager to 3rd. The Dodgers have Lux who is a natural SS with Downs coming up. Donaldson hit 215 against lefties last year and is another year older plus he is reportedly a true pain in the clubhouse.
    I doubt the Dodgers will pay the multi year that Rendon and his agent Boras will request. Lets get real here instead of in dream land. The Dodgers are not in the habit of paying that type of money.
    Muncy has respectable numbers for a 3rd baseman and is much younger without the physical problems Turner has had. Turner can play 1st base and Lux 2nd although if I were the Dodgers I would move Turner to 1st, Seager to 3rd, Lux to SS and Muncy to 2nd.
    They may try to upgrade via trade as they have possible moves like Maeda and probable moves such as Pederson, Taylor, Hernandez, Rios, White, Santana and others that are blocked or could easily be replaced from the Minors.

    • They are not in the habit of paying that kind of money nor are they in the habit of winning the World Series.

  6. If Cleveland wants Lux (and one or two lesser prospects) for Lindor and Kluber I’d certainly think about it. Shift Seager or Lindor to third. Turner to first. Muncy to second. That’s a potent infield. Cleveland seems interested. Depends on Kluber’s health. He wasn’t good last year after broken arm. If Ryu and Hill gone, another top starter is needed. Could be Urias. May could get more starts. But innings could be an issue for both. A healthy (and cheaper) Kluber could be a good fit.

  7. the Dodgers only need is pitching. Everyone’s talking about expensive hitters.. Gerit Cole, and a stud closer, with a solid bridge to the 9th inning, will get the job done.. the dodgers can’t win by reshuffling the deck, of existing pitchers..The dodgers still have the nucleus to contend for a chip. Getting Rendon will not close games. Good pitching ALWAYS beats good hitting.

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