After the 2020 season, Justin Turner was a free agent, fresh off helping the Los Angeles Dodgers win their first World Series in 32 years. And at times it felt like there was a real possibility he’d be leaving.
Though the negotiations took a little longer than fans would’ve liked, everyone came to their senses and JT returned to LA on a two-year, $34 million contract, which included a team option for a third year.
Turner’s now entering the second year of that deal coming off what you could call the best campaign of his career. However, it ended in heartbreaking fashion when he went down with a hamstring injury in the NLCS, which played a big role in the Dodgers’ downfall.
So, to summarize, Turner became a free agent last offseason; insiders deemed him the “heart and soul” of the Dodgers; he was re-signed to a generous contract despite entering his age-36 season; he pretty much replicated his 2016 season, which saw him finished ninth in the NL MVP voting; and … one MLB insider is positing the Dodgers could trade him to replenish their farm system?!
Would the Dodgers actually consider trading Justin Turner?
Here’s what ESPN’s Alden Gonzalez wrote (subscription required) when talking about the chances of the Dodgers landing free agent Freddie Freeman when the lockout ends:
“Freeman’s presence would make the Dodgers’ lineup look just as scary as it did during the stretch run of the 2021 season, but it could also give them more flexibility to make a trade. Lux — who the Dodgers have always been reluctant to trade — could be used in pursuit of starting-pitching help, preventing the front office from having to overpay in a free-agent market that quickly dried up. Turner — a year away from free agency — could be used to help restock a farm system that has thinned out at the top.”
Woah! Just gonna toss Turner in there as possible trade bait alongside Gavin Lux?! Have we no respect for franchise legends anymore?! It’s not like the guy took an unthinkable step back for 2021 and no longer has a spot on the roster (which is exactly what’s happening with Lux)!
We’re never going to say never, but it’s hard to envision the Dodgers moving on from Turner for a multitude of reasons. First and foremost, he’s cemented as an all-time Dodger great. Secondly, he’s making $20 million in 2022, which won’t be easy to unload unless there’s another contender out there badly in need of a third baseman. And lastly, we’re really not sure what kind of a return a 37-year-old third baseman who costs that much money (plus a $16 million team option or $2 million buyout in 2022) could get the Dodgers. Would that really “restock” the top of the farm system?
The lone indication that this might happen is that LA has already lost figures key to their organizational fabric. Corey Seager is gone. Joe Kelly is gone. We already saw how the losses of Joc Pederson and Kiké Hernandez badly affected their depth in the postseason. We have no idea if Clayton Kershaw is coming back. If Kerhsaw leaves and the hits keep on coming, then OK, we’ll lend more credence to Turner being packaged and sent away in an effort to expedite the team’s re-tool … but it’s certainly not going to happen if they’re going to upgrade in the form of Freeman and other high-priced free agents/trade targets.