After seven seasons with the Dodgers, third baseman Justin Turner finds himself a free agent for the second time in four years. Could Miami be a player for his services?
Justin Turner’s tenure in L.A. has been personified by success and rebirth. A below average hitter during his time with the Mets – slashing .265/.326/.370 (95 OPS+) – Turner officially arrived as a legitimate every day player in 2014, hitting .340 in 109 games, cementing his place as the Dodgers’ primary third baseman.
Fast-forward to the end of the 2020 season and after a World Series title, NLCS MVP, and All-Star appearance, Turner playing anywhere but L.A. would seem odd to the eyes of those who’ve watched him don Dodger Blue for the past seven years.
But could he be an ideal fit for Miami?
Now, at first, many a Marlins fan would note the presence of Brian Anderson, who, we’ve noted here as the first of this emerging Miami core, is deserving of a long-term deal. In 366 games over parts of four seasons, Andersons owns a 112 OPS+ and stellar .349 on-base percentage. 2019 saw him post career high’s in home runs, RBI, stolen bases, and OPS, albeit in an injury shortened season.
Anderson being the team’s primary third baseman is the first cause to null the mere idea of Turner with Miami, but it should be noted that Anderson possesses some positional versatility, appearing in 144 games in right field for his career. Between right field and third base, Anderson owns 17 defensive runs saved since the start of 2019.
Anderson could move to right field should Turner windup with the Marlins, pushing Cooper into a platoon with Corey Dickerson in left, as well as leaving the door open for him to get occasional starts at first base.
Should the National League forego the Designated Hitter in 2021, the team projects to have Garrett Cooper as their primary right fielder. Cooper, who played in 34 games last season, finished with an .853 OPS while splitting time between first base and DH. The team also recently tendered a contract to Jesus Aguilar for next season, an indicator he’ll serve as the primary first baseman.
With all of this in mind though, where is the fit for Turner with the Marlins?
It should first be noted of his relationship with Don Mattingly, who managed Turner in 2014-15 in Los Angeles. Turner hit .314 in parts of two seasons under Mattingly, slugging .492 en route to his emergence as one of the NL’s best hitters.
Turner’s age is a factor here as well, with 2021 being his age 36-season. Despite the questions surrounding his age, Turner finished the truncated 2020 season with a .400 OBP and a 135 OPS+. For his career, he owns a 128 OPS+ thanks to a triple slash line of .292/.369/.469. 2019 saw Turner hit a career best 27 home runs, an impressive feat given half his games came in pitcher-friendly Dodger Stadium.
In his career at Chavez Ravine, Turner is a .298 hitter, slugging .502 in 401 games. In 26 games at Marlins Park, Turner owns a Cobb-like .384 average, slugging .712.
Question’s surrounding Turner’s age can be nulled by his positional versatility, as he is more than capable of moving across the diamond to first base once he reaches his late 30’s. Turner has logged 238 innings at first over his career, as well as 953 at second, and 280.2 at shortstop. As much of a revelation as the prior-named Aguilar was in 2020, truth serum would tell us he isn’t the team’s long term answer at first base, and that having the likes of Turner there allow more flexibility for the likes of Anderson and Cooper.
Having someone with the postseason pedigree of Turner’s would do wonders for a team who surprised many by making the playoffs as a Wild Card before a premature exit to the Atlanta Braves in the NLDS. In 72 postseason games, Turner owns a .295 average, 12 home runs and 19 doubles. Turner’s 2.72 Win Probability Added (WPA) ranks third all-time to Albert Pujols (2.9) and David Ortiz (3.2).