Should the Dodgers re-sign Justin Turner or trade for Nolan Arenado? Depends on how crazy you want to get and how flexible you want to be.
Only 48 hours or so after we first heard the re-emergence of the rumor, it looks like we’ll be forced to address the largest question looming over the Dodgers’ immediate future.
Will the Los Angeles Dodgers run back their championship roster next year and allow Justin Turner to end his career in Hollywood on a two-year deal? Or will they learn the opposite lesson from 2020, realize that Mookie Betts was the difference between previous iterations of this team, and decide that more star power is always better?
We’d better act fast with our assessment here — according to former GM Jim Bowden, Nolan Arenado will be a Dodger by Christmas, leaving us only a full advent calendar’s worth of days to decide if we actually want that or not.
Let’s get one thing out of the way: No, the cost of an Arenado should not be prohibitive. His much-ballyhooed contract is about $32.5 million per year until 2026, pending a decision to waive his no-trade clause and opt in. He’ll certainly do both if he’s rewarded with the chance to “come home” to Los Angeles (he’s a Newport Beach native).
In terms of basic sense, a capital-rich Arenado acquisition also makes a lot more sense than, say, a Francisco Lindor trade, the other superstar who’s been floated in recent weeks. The acquisition of Lindor (only one year of control remaining) would mean sacrificing Keibert Ruiz or Gavin Lux for a shortstop who immediately makes Corey Seager redundant. At least if Arenado’s the target, the front office could theoretically choose to extend themselves and commit long-term money to both Seager and Arenado.
Though Seager may eventually move off short, there’s no reason to be thinking so far down the line in 2020-21, and a Lindor trade changes the immediate narrative in the way an Arenado deal wouldn’t.
Then, of course, there’s Turner, who means more to the Dodgers than he does to any other MLB team, entering a slow offseason for everyone further clouded by his personal controversy.
Let’s say Turner’s next deal takes him two years through his age-37 season. His partial 2020 season was extremely valuable, worth 1.3 WAR and featuring a .307/.400/.460 triple slash that looks a lot like his emergent prime.
Due to his age and intrinsic value, it’s highly likely he could return for two seasons well below the cost of just one year of Arenado. And we’re not talking about a pity extension here — right up to the finish line, Turner was arguably the World Champions’ third-most important player.
Think of it this way: Arenado comes with fewer complicating factors than Lindor, but Turner comes with none. If you re-sign Turner, you get to keep Gavin Lux. You get to pay Corey Seager, whether he moves or not. And you even get to wait and see what happens with Arenado in Colorado, somewhere he might loudly demand to leave again over the course of the next few years.
The 2020 season’s many complexities helped mute Arenado’s own drama, but prior to the league-wide shutdown, his complaining and agitating was at an all-time high. It could very easily reach that level again in a year or two, upping Colorado’s desperation and lowering their price.
Our verdict? Sign Turner, reap the benefits, eventually sign Seager, and keep one eye open regarding Arenado. Even if this offseason doesn’t feature a blockbuster pre-Christmas deal, 2022 very well might.