Dodgers’ Justin Turner Needs A Breather
Nobody wants to admit it, but the time has come to do something about struggling Dodgers’ third baseman Justin Turner.
Everybody loves the scrappy ginger, who not only raked like crazy in MLB for the past two seasons, but also makes one killer Chia Pet. Teammates, management, fans, and the Dodger marketing department have seemingly closed ranks around the popular Turner as he continues to endure a horrendous 2016. Cries to send Yasiel Puig to the minors or dump Carl Crawford or bench Howie Kendrick are drowning out the even bigger problem of what to do about J.T.
Turner’s triple slash line of .225/.328/.335 must secretly be making manager Dave Roberts‘ skin crawl. And yet, Roberts slots him third in the lineup just about every game. That is a head-scratcher. The guy is not hitting or driving in runs (3 homers, 16 RBIs) and you keep him in the middle of the order, day in and day out, when there are other guys who are proving they can help you there (Corey Seager or Trayce Thompson would be way more suitable there)? What gives?
The wishful thinking that Turner is going to wake up and start pounding the ball any day now needs to end. He’s just not showing any signs; he looks more lost at the plate every day, and his futility is hurting the team. For weeks now, the general theory seemed to be that his off-season knee surgery was to blame. Maybe this is true, but since Turner isn’t talking about it, nobody knows more than what he shows on the diamond. His defense looks terrific, but third base is largely a hair-trigger reaction position, so he could be playing hurt there without showing it. At the plate, he just doesn’t look like the same J.T. who hit .294 with 16 homers and 60 RBIs in only 385 at-bats, and clutch-hit the Dodgers to the play-offs last season.
The Dodgers could use Frazier’s punch right now, but one aging player doesn’t equal the value of the trio of young talent the team received.
With one-third of the season behind us and Turner looking at most likely his worst season in the bigs, some will point out that the Dodgers should have held onto Todd Frazier. However, this would be a huge Monday-morning quarterbacking moment that doesn’t really hold up. Remember, the three-way deal that gave the Dodgers Frazier for five minutes ended up netting the team kick-ass outfielder Trayce Thompson (where would the team be without him right now?), future key bullpen piece and flame-thrower, Frankie Montas (who could be called up soon), and second baseman Micah Johnson (another solid player). Frazier, on the other hand, while showing his powerful stroke again this season with 17 home runs, is also sporting his customary weak batting average (.220). The Dodgers could use Frazier’s punch right now, but one aging player doesn’t equal the value of the trio of young talent the team received.
At the very least, Roberts should drop Turner to sixth or seventh in the order where he will hurt the team less, and best-case, reclaim his stroke in a space where there is a bit less pressure. The real answer, though, may be a stint on the15-day D.L. where J.T. can rest his a knee a bit, and then hopefully work out his swing in the quieter confines of Oklahoma City for a short while.
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The Dodgers could recall infielder Charlie Culberson to fill the void while Turner figures things out, as he did a solid job for the team earlier in the season. Culberson won’t hit the cover off the ball, but at least he will hit it, and that’s something the team needs more than anything right now.