The Los Angeles Dodgers have a lot of decisions to make this offseason. The team has a long list of free agents that they are going to have to prioritize while also having the flexibility to make outside moves. Los Angeles has an estimated $111 million in luxury tax space and, of course, can go over the $230 or $250 million thresholds if they so desire.
One of the more compelling storylines this offseason is what the team will do with Justin Turner. Turner has a club option for the 2023 season that is worth $16 million, and halfway through the 2022 campaign it seemed like a no-brainer that it wouldn’t be picked up.
However, Turner heated up in the second half of the season to put together a respectable overall showing. That production might not be worth $16 million, but Turner is a fan favorite and has done so much for this organization and the community.
On the other hand, the team has youth waiting in the wings in Miguel Vargas, who looks like the everyday third baseman of the future — at least for the time being. With other teams like the Mets potentially in the running for Turner, the Dodgers have a tough decision to make and cannot outright deny his option to sign him for cheaper.
The Dodgers have a solid solution to keep Justin Turner in LA for cheaper
Andrew Friedman has to get creative with Turner, and the first step has to be to sit down with the veteran and work out this plan. Obviously, Turner is going to do what’s best for him (as he should) and shouldn’t be outright asked to take a big pay cut.
The Dodgers aren’t a team that’s short on cash, though, as they can easily afford to pay Turner for all of the things he has done for them. That being said, there’s a competitive advantage of getting Turner’s luxury-tax hit at a lower number, and that’s the goal for Friedman.
To do that, the Dodgers can decline Turner’s team option with an agreement in place to re-sign him for a cheaper salary that includes deferred money. This allows Turner to make the same amount that he would have anyway (awarding himself future payments) while also giving the Dodgers more financial flexibility.
Of course, the Dodgers are going to have to do Turner a favor if he agrees to this kind of restructuring by adding a bit more cash on the top. An extra $5 million is not going to hurt the Dodgers, especially with the money spaced out.
So what could this look like? LA could re-sign Turner to a one-year, $7 million contract, saving them $11 million in the process (that $11 million can go a long way). The deal can include $16 million in deferred payments, paying Turner a total of $23 million ($5 million more for his troubles). If they want, they can tack on a team option for 2024 (with buyout money potentially serving as a deferred payment).
The $16 million in deferred payments can be divided into four years that take into effect whenever the Dodgers and Turner agree. Turner would then get a Bobby Bonilla-style payday for four years that really wouldn’t restrict the Dodgers that much with the increased luxury tax thresholds.
This allows JT to stay in Los Angeles, perhaps in a lesser role as a veteran bench bat that gets 400 plate appearances instead of 650, while also freeing up some money for the front office to spend.