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An East Coast homecoming may be in the cards for Trea Turner. (Brandon Sloter/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
With mere weeks standing between him and a date with Major League Baseball’s free-agent market, Trea Turner just made it easier to speculate about where he’ll end up.
Though the Los Angeles Dodgers shortstop told Bill Plunkett of the Orange County-Register that “everything is in play” for his free agency, the Boynton Beach, Florida, native and former Washington National was also transparent about his fondness for the East Coast:
Bill Plunkett @billplunkettocr
The perception is that Florida native Trea Turner will want to return to the East Coast in free agency. He helped create that perception. “Yeah, I’m from the East Coast. Would I like to go back? Sure. But I think L.A.’s been really good to me.”https://t.co/QGoYjbwjQv
This almost certainly doesn’t rule out a return to the Dodgers for Turner, a two-time All-Star who’s also won a batting title and a World Series ring. But if nothing else, it’s a sign that they shouldn’t be expecting him to give them any kind of discount.
As for what the 29-year-old Turner might be worth in free agency, let’s break that down before we get to hypothesizing about his potential suitors.
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AP Photo/Ashley Landis
As exemplified by Francisco Lindor (10 years, $341 million), Fernando Tatis Jr. (14 years, $340 million) and, most recently, Corey Seager (10 years, $325 million), the going rate for a superstar shortstop isn’t cheap.
This surely bodes well for Turner, and FanSided’s Robert Murray posited during a livestream in June that he might even beat what Seager got from the Texas Rangers.
The Team 980 @team980
MLB Insider makes a prediction: Trea Turner’s new contract will top Corey Seager’s $325 million deal. https://t.co/nQANdECwYr
If anything qualifies this as a reach, it’s Turner’s age. Whereas Seager was off his age-27 season when he inked his deal last offseason, Turner will be coming off his age-29 season when he hits the market this winter.
But given that 2022 would be Turner’s age-28 season if he was born on July 1 rather than June 30, this is basically a nitpick. There’s otherwise no question that he’s one of baseball’s best shortstops, if not the best.
Though Turner, who debuted in 2015, was plenty good in 2018 and 2019, it’s really in the last three years that he’s taken off. He’s hit at .320/.368/.525 with 162-game averages of 28 home runs and 32 stolen bases. Among shortstops, his 14.0 rWAR since 2020 ranks first.
To boot, it’s possible that Turner hasn’t yet peaked. With the pitch clock, larger bases and limits on shifts likely to lead to more hits and stolen bases, his hitting acumen and 100th-percentile sprint speed figure to be even bigger problems for the opposition.
As such, a $300 million contract may well be in the cards for Turner. We see 10 teams that could be willing to spend that much on a shortstop, and we’ve ranked them according to how good of a fit we think they are for Turner.
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Maddie Malhotra/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images
10. St. Louis Cardinals
Current Shortstop: Tommy Edman (6.3 rWAR)
2023 Commitments: $79.4 Million
Edman is a darn good player, but he could shift to second base if the Cardinals come to see Turner as a good fit for the $30 million payroll hole that Adam Wainwright, Yadier Molina and Albert Pujols are about to open up. They’re obviously not an East Coast team, however, and a $300 million deal is nearly triple the biggest deal the club has ever done in free agency.
Current Shortstop: Dansby Swanson (5.1 rWAR)
2023 Commitments: $157.3 Million
Now we’re on the East Coast, and the defending World Series champions will need a shortstop if they fail to retain Swanson this winter. Yet with Swanson and Atlanta engaged in extension talks, according to Jon Heyman of the New York Post, this is a long-shot concept even without getting into whether Turner would be financially feasible for Atlanta.
8. Boston Red Sox
Current Shortstop: Xander Bogaerts (5.6 rWAR)
2023 Commitments: $112.1 Million
With Bogaerts all but assured to exercise his opt-out, Boston is another club that could soon be missing its franchise shortstop. But even if there’s more money here than there is in Atlanta, a new deal with Bogaerts seems more likely. Failing that, the Red Sox might simply shift Trevor Story from second base back to shortstop if Bogaerts walks.
7. Miami Marlins
Current Shortstop: Miguel Rojas (2.0 rWAR)
2022 Commitments: $47.6 Million
With the Marlins badly in need of offense, is it too much to ask that they make Turner, who grew up about an hour from Miami, the free-agent splash fans have been waiting for? One would hope not, but just ask Derek Jeter how willing owner Bruce Sherman has been to spend real money. Maybe that’ll change someday, but it’s a don’t-hold-your-breath situation.
6. Baltimore Orioles
Current Shortstop: Jorge Mateo (3.0 rWAR)
2023 Commitments: $19.6 Million
If there’s a dark horse for Turner on the East Coast, it has to be the Orioles, right? They’ve taken a big step forward in 2022 even without high-priced stars, and there’s hypothetically room to add several of those this winter. But with Jorge Mateo and Gunnar Henderson already on the roster, the O’s might rightfully figure they’re better off targeting pitching.
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Sarah Stier/Getty Images
Current Shortstop: Isiah Kiner-Falefa (2.6 rWAR)
2023 Commitments: $151 Million
We’re talking about a big-money player who has his eyes on the East Coast, so we’re basically contractually obligated to include the Yankees as a possible suitor.
While Kiner-Falefa is a nice guy to have, he’s no cornerstone. The Yankees would be upgrading substantially if they signed Turner and pushed Kiner-Falefa from shortstop into some kind of supporting role, or maybe to third base if they can offload Josh Donaldson.
Yet there are issues with this idea, starting with how the right-handed-swinging Turner’s power stroke isn’t necessarily geared for Yankee Stadium’s short right field porch:
- To Left Field: 67 HR
- To Center Field: 51 HR
- To Right Field: 5 HR
The Yankees might also still be playing the long game at shortstop. As reported by MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand, they didn’t go after Seager, Story, Carlos Correa, Javier Báez or Marcus Semien last winter because of how much they like top prospects Oswald Peraza and Anthony Volpe.
We can also be real on who the Yankees’ No. 1 target will be in free agency this winter: Aaron Judge. As he has 57 home runs and counting, they’ve hopefully already determined that he’s indeed worth more than the $213.5 million offer that he rejected in April.
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Brandon Sloter/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
Current Shortstop: Nico Hoerner (4.5 rWAR)
2023 Commitments: $91.5 Million
If anyone’s thinking that the Cubs already have a good shortstop, well, that’s true. Hoerner has real skills, including an elite bat-to-ball talent and upper-level defensive chops.
There are nonetheless signals coming from the organization that a pursuit of one of the winter’s top shortstops is coming, including from manager David Ross:
Jordan Bastian @MLBastian
Cubs manager David Ross, on the idea of the front office potentially going after a big free-agent shortstop when Nico Hoerner has proven he can handle the position at a high level ⬇️ pic.twitter.com/EpXAi1NVDF
Granted, the Cubs are not an East Coast team. Yet David Kaplan of NBC Sports Chicago has said there’s mutual interest between Turner and the Cubs, though Turner himself hinted that the Cubs would have to sell him on the team’s direction.
“From multiple organizations, you’d want to know what they expect or where it’s going or what they’re trying to do—kind of a vision,” he said, according to Gordon Wittenmeyer of NBC Sports Chicago. “Whatever that vision is it is. But I think that’s mandatory.”
This figures to be the hard part if the Cubs make a run at Turner. With 173 losses at the big league level over the last two seasons and with their farm system drawing mixed reviews, the club’s rebuild seems very much ongoing rather than close to ending.
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Steven King/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
Current Shortstop: Brandon Crawford (0.2 rWAR)
2023 Commitments: $103 Million
Though the Giants are the very opposite of an East Coast team, they have at least one thing that could win Turner over: tons of money.
For his part, Giants president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi has hinted that a spending spree is coming:
MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM @MLBNetworkRadio
The Giants won 107 games last year. Now they find themselves under .500 and out of the postseason picture.
How will they respond this offseason?
President of Baseball Operations Farhan Zaidi:@SFGiants | #SFGiants | #SFGameUp pic.twitter.com/EsgtBA9H5Z
And for his, Bob Nightengale of USA Today reported Monday that the Giants would “love” to land a star shortstop if they can’t get Judge first. Heck, why not both? It’s a fair question in light of how those $103 million commitments include $35.5 million worth of options for Evan Longoria and Carlos Rodón that the Giants are unlikely to actually pay.
Though the 35-year-old Crawford hit enough to contend for the NL MVP just last year, he’s gone back to being a glove-first player in 2022. Conceivably, he could move into a platoon with Wilmer Flores at second base to accommodate Turner.
Yet if it’s that important to Turner that an organization have a “vision,” it’s possible he’ll have reservations about the Giants. They’re in better shape than the Cubs, having regressed only to 69-74 after a shocking 107-win season in 2021. The issue is more so the club’s young talent, or rather curious lack thereof both in the majors and down on the farm.
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Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
Current Shortstop: Turner
2023 Commitments: $159.9 Million
If it’s conceivable that Turner remains on the West Coast to join the Giants, then obviously it’s conceivable that he re-ups with the Dodgers this winter.
Heyman reported in May that Turner initially had a “negative reaction” to the trade that sent him from Washington to Los Angeles last July, but that he’s since “settled in.” Turner himself basically admitted as much to Plunkett, saying “L.A.’s been really good to me.”
What’s more, those $159.9 million in commitments understate how much financial flexibility the Dodgers could have this winter. They have $32.6 million worth of options they might decline. They could also save another chunk of change by non-tendering fallen MVP Cody Bellinger, who’s earning $17 million this season.
Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman’s track record is also worth considering here. Of the six biggest deals he’s done in free agency, half of them—i.e., Justin Turner, Kenley Jansen and Chris Taylor—kept core stars from leaving.
As for what else besides money could convince Turner to forgo a return to the East Coast, well, how about a chance to keep winning with the only team that’s won games at a .600 clip over the last decade? One would think that wouldn’t hurt the Dodgers’ case.
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Megan Briggs/Getty Images
Current Shortstop: Bryson Stott (1.0 rWAR)
2023 Commitments: $163.9 Million
Turner obviously isn’t wearing a Phillies uniform yet, but that won’t be the case for much longer if the talent evaluators who predicted the pairing to Nightengale get their way.
One thing that’s for sure is that two-time MVP Bryce Harper wouldn’t mind reuniting with his old Nationals teammate. Harper recently called Turner “my favorite player in the league.”
More than as a friend for Harper, the Phillies just plain need Turner in their lineup. Though Stott has redeemed the mess that Didi Gregorius made before he was released, the Phillies have gotten just 0.2 rWAR out of shortstop all season. Meanwhile, they’ve also gotten just a .295 OBP out of their leadoff spot.
As the Phillies are currently operating with their highest ever payroll, the financials are the tricky part here. But they will have some wiggle room this winter, as they can free up money by declining $32 million worth of options on Jean Segura and Zach Eflin.
With their farm system in not-great shape, spending is the only way the Phillies are going to sustain as a contender anyway. To this end, Turner would go nicely with a collection of free-agent hits that already includes on Harper, J.T. Realmuto, Zack Wheeler and Kyle Schwarber.
Stats courtesy of Baseball Reference, FanGraphs and Baseball Savant.