Loving Boston, Turner hopes to return to Sox

November 13th, 2023

This story was excerpted from Ian Browne's Red Sox Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

BOSTON -- and his wife, Courtney, are having so much fun in Boston that they haven’t left yet.

This, despite the fact that Justin declined his player option for 2024 last week to become a free agent.

There is no current contract attaching Turner to the Red Sox, but it’s obvious he hasn’t cut the cord yet. In fact, Turner has been going to Fenway Park regularly to work out and get treatment from the training staff.

“We stayed up here. Our lease was through Oct. 31 anyway,” Turner said Friday night at a charity event for the Pedro Martinez Foundation. “We’ve been enjoying it. We had some stuff going on in California, too, but we decided to extend it to November and here we are.”

Turner, with a career-high 96 RBIs, was a perfect fit in Boston on and off the field.

“The city has been really, really fantastic to us. Not only us, but our foundation as well and supporting that, and being given the opportunity to put a Red Sox jersey on and play in Fenway Park and call it home has been something honestly I couldn’t even imagine would happen in my career,” said Turner. “But I’m so glad it did, because it’s truly been one of the best experiences of my life.”

Is Turner hoping there’s a path back to the Red Sox?

“I would love to be back with the Sox. I think the crazy thing is that as great as our experience was, we finished in last place in the AL East. What I’ve heard from all these guys, Pedro included, is how amazing this town is when you’re making a playoff run,” Turner said. “I want to know what it's like to play in a playoff game here for the Red Sox -- not against them.”

In 2018, Turner and his Dodgers faced a juggernaut Boston team in the World Series and came up short.

Now that the Red Sox have a new chief baseball officer in Craig Breslow, decisions are going to start getting made regarding the construction of Boston's 2024 roster.

“I sat down in the clubhouse with [Breslow] maybe the day after he was hired. We had about an hour conversation and got into certain things,” said Turner. “It’s very new for him. It was very new for him at the time. He’s still trying to get to know everyone in the organization and it was very casual. It wasn't very much business.”

The one possible impediment to Turner being back with the Red Sox is that he could be viewed as a bit of a square peg in a round hole in this sense: The club very much wants to improve defensively from last year.

With Turner serving as the primary DH like he did last year, that might be a challenge for the Sox to get better on defense. In other words, if manager Alex Cora can have more opportunities to put Masataka Yoshida, Triston Casas and Rafael Devers at DH, it could lead to the team playing cleaner overall defense.

Breslow noted that, in a perfect world, the DH position would be one that Cora has some flexibility with.

Keep in mind that Turner -- who can play first, third and even a little second base -- likely could have played more defense last year if not for the scary beaning he endured in Spring Training and then the deep bone bruise he suffered on his right foot on July 31.

As for Breslow, he hasn’t ruled anything out with Turner.

“What I feel really confident speaking to is the impact that he had on the team despite the fact that I wasn't there,” said Breslow. “It was really clear, just based on the way people spoke about him, just how much he meant to the clubhouse, how much he meant to the organization, how much he meant to the city. You know, obviously, we have to figure out if he fits, how he fits, but from kind of my perspective, I just have nothing but effusive praise for Justin as a person.”