'Perfect fit': Turner, Dodgers finalize deal

February 19th, 2021

At the beginning of the offseason, the feelings were mutual:  wanted to return to the Dodgers and Los Angeles wanted Turner to be its third baseman in 2021 and beyond.

But as usually happens during negotiations, things didn’t go as planned. Turner reportedly had interest from the Mets, Blue Jays, Brewers, Braves and others. The Dodgers looked into other options, according to president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman, but nothing was ever close to materializing.

On Friday, the wait was officially over. The Dodgers formally announced they had signed Turner to a two-year deal. The deal is reportedly worth $34 million and it includes a club option for 2023. The figures are not confirmed as the club does not disclose contract details.

“L.A. and the Dodgers hold a pretty big spot in my heart,” Turner said Friday. “I’ve spent the last seven years here, making a ton of memories. Really seeing, you know, my career kind of turn around and take off, and it’s a place that’s always been special to me. Going into the offseason and through this free-agency process, it’s something that obviously never left my mind.”

Though he wanted to return to Los Angeles, Turner admitted that there were times when he wasn’t sure if a deal was going to get worked out between the two sides. He reportedly wanted a three- or four-year deal in what could be his last big league contract. The Dodgers, on the other hand, remained consistent in not wanting to extend past a two-year pact.

“I think it’s hard to say if it was close or not,” Turner said, when asked if he was close to choosing another team. “But there were definitely some ups and downs throughout the process, where some things happened where I wasn’t sure whether or not I was actually going to end back with the Dodgers. … There were times where I was like, ‘Oh man this doesn’t look good. Like, I’m not sure what’s going to happen.'”

The uncertainty surrounding whether the designated hitter would be used in the National League also played a factor in Turner’s slower market. The Dodgers' third baseman is still one of the premier hitters in the big leagues, but his defensive mobility has taken a hit as he enters the season as a 36-year-old veteran.

In the end, it all worked out for Turner and the Dodgers.

“It was definitely flattering to be courted like that from other teams,” Turner said. “But at the end of the day, it all worked out how it was supposed to and I’m back in Dodger blue, like I was supposed to be.”

“Obviously, we weren’t sure what was going to happen,” Friedman added. “But I think anytime you enter into the winter with both sides wanting something to happen, I think it increases the odds.”

Turner’s return gives the Dodgers even more stability in the lineup and in the clubhouse. He became a star after being released by the Mets and joining the Dodgers in 2014. Since joining the club, Turner has hit .302 with 116 home runs and he quickly became a clubhouse leader and a fan favorite. He also played a crucial role last season in the Dodgers winning their first World Series title since 1988.

Los Angeles will continue to trot Turner out at third base and manager Dave Roberts said he “doesn’t see” the 36-year-old playing first base this season. The emergence of Edwin Rios will allow the Dodgers to give Turner extra off-days, in an effort to keep him healthy and fresh throughout the season.

“It’s a perfect fit,” Roberts said of having Turner back. “For it to finally get done, I know it’s a big relief for him. Now, we can just go to work.”

Bringing Turner back also assures that his last image with the club wasn’t an unfavorable one. After being informed of a positive COVID-19 test during Game 6 of the World Series, Turner was taken off the field but returned to the field after the game to celebrate with his teammates. Turner apologized and the organization stood by him. MLB also decided not to discipline Turner.

Turner spoke to reporters for the first time since the incident on Friday. He said the moment was “extremely difficult” and that he experienced “every range of emotion that you can possibly have.”

“Personally, I felt like it was the third time I had to sit and watch a team celebrate winning the World Series,” Turner said, referencing the times he watched the Astros and Red Sox celebrate after beating the Dodgers in 2017 and '18, respectively. “That was tough, and that’s something that is on the top of my list. I still have not been able to be on the field for the last out and celebrate a championship, and that’s something I’m determined to show up and work for every day and have that experience at the end of the year.”

With this new deal, Turner will get another chance to experience that moment as a member of the Dodgers.