The Dodgers recently announced the re-signing of Justin Turner to a 4yr/$64m deal. In this series we examine just how valuable each new signing might be, beginning with Turner.
After being non-tendered by the Mets following the 2013 season, Justin Turner had the makings of a career journeyman utility infielder. Drafted in the 7th round of the 2006 Rule 4 draft, Turner had already seen time with 2 major league clubs and was looking for a third at just 28 years old. In parts of 4 seasons with the Mets, Turner chugged along to a mediocre .265/.326/.370 slash line with just 8 home runs in 814 at bats. With an OPS+ of 95 and showing little power Turner looked like the prototypical 25th man.
Fast forward three years however and Turner’s career has taken a very different path. After coming to the Dodger as a non-roster invitee and spending much of the 2014 season coming off the bench, Turner broke out as the Dodgers everyday 3rd baseman in 2015. Spurred by an off season hitting program with Marlon Byrd before he left the Mets, Turner hit his way to one of the top 3rd baseman in the league.
As a result of his prolific campaign with the Dodgers, Turner entered the off-season as the second best free agent on the market. The So Cal native was expected to be compensated handsomely as well with Fangraphs predicting Turner to receive a deal in the range of 5 yrs/$80m. Instead, Turner elected to return to LA on what appears to be a bargain 4yrs/$64m but just how much of a bargain is it?
First let’s, take a look at other notable free agent signings.
If you look at those numbers, Turner and Yoenis Cespedes have been remarkably similar players over the last 3 seasons despite the latter receiving almost 500 extra plate appearances.
However, after re-signing with the Mets earlier this off-season, Cespedes is set to earn the second highest average annual salary of any position player in the big leagues thanks to his 4 yr/$110m deal.
I won’t go into as much detail with the other notable free agent signings but I think this speaks volumes.
|Desmond||.320||99||.163||9.0||5/$70m + Opt|
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Of the players above, Turner has clearly been the best performer over the last 3 seasons and is reflected by every metric in the table (as well as defensive metrics not presented here) yet Turner will spend the next 4 seasons at Chavez Ravine for a much less significant investment.
Another way we can evaluate Turner’s contract is by calculating the expected surplus value (or potentially lack thereof) for the deal. Over the last 3 seasons, Turner has compiled 3.2, 4.1 and 5.6 WAR and in light of this Dan Szymborski’s ZiPS projections foresee 12.3 WAR from Turner for the life of his new contract. These estimates are likely to be conservative as they usually include a number of seasons worth of data including some of his days with the Mets.
We also know that the free market currently values a win at approximately $8m. Given this we can expect Turner to provide $98.4m of production over the life of the deal. Doing some simple math we can expect Turner to be worth a whopping $34.4m in surplus value with the Dodgers.
There is one more thing to factor in here however. Prior to re-signing with the Dodgers, Turner rejected a 1 yr/$17.2m Qualifying Offer which would have netted the Dodgers a 1st round draft pick had the 3rd baseman signed elsewhere. This pick is not without value of its own and is commonly believed to be worth something like $10m. Again, some basic math we find that Turner’s true surplus value to the Dodgers is something like $24.4M.
Whether you look at Turner’s 4 yr/$64m deal relative to his free agent peers or his own recent performance, the Dodgers 3rd baseman is an absolute steal for the franchise. As a 32 year old infielder with a recent knee surgery, Turner doesn’t come without risk but this has the makings of a great signing for the Dodgers.