With the 2022 season behind us and the Hot Stove ready to burn, we're taking a close look at some of the most prominent players eligible for free agency.
Name: Trea Turner
Team: Los Angeles Dodgers
Age (as of Opening Day 2023): 29
2022 stats: .298/.343/.466, 21 HR, 100 RBI, 101 R, 27 SB
For the second consecutive offseason, the free-agent shortstop class is loaded. While Carlos Correa, Xander Bogaerts and Dansby Swanson will draw plenty of interest, Turner is the best of the bunch.
Turner is trending upward as he hits free agency, having made his first two All-Star teams in 2021 and '22. He led the National League in hits, stolen bases, total bases and batting average in 148 games with the Nationals and Dodgers in '21, then followed that up with another strong performance in '22.
Turner ranked 12th in the Majors with a 6.3 fWAR, putting his 13.1 fWAR since the start of 2021 behind only fellow free agent Aaron Judge (17.0). There’s no question Turner will cash in this offseason with a huge contract, but where will he land?
Turner is said to favor a return to the East Coast, though more than a decade ago, it seemed like a lock that CC Sabathia would sign with a California team. Things happen. The Dodgers have seen firsthand how impactful Turner can be, though they could opt to take that money and make a bid for Judge.
With Jean Segura likely heading out of town, the Phillies can move Bryson Stott to second base and import a big shortstop bat. Turner is a well-known commodity in Philly from his days in Washington, where he and Bryce Harper were teammates. The Phillies seem prepared to spend big this winter, with Turner atop their wish list.
Judge would seem to be the Yankees’ top priority, but if the slugger leaves New York, the club will have a bunch of money to spend and a need for more offense. Turner might not be the ideal candidate, given the presence of young shortstops Oswald Peraza and Anthony Volpe in the organization. But a dynamic player like Turner doesn’t hit the market often. Never count the Yankees out.
Boston is facing the loss of its own shortstop, as Bogaerts opted out of his contract to join Turner on the free-agent market. The Red Sox have to make a decision on whether to extend third baseman Rafael Devers, but could Turner be a better player to invest in long term? There’s a lot of payroll flexibility, so the Sox can get involved in the Turner sweepstakes if they choose to.
Like the Red Sox, the Braves have their own free-agent shortstop in Swanson. Atlanta doesn’t typically get involved with top-tier free agents, but the core of the team is signed to team-friendly contracts -- so the Braves could make a run at Turner, who has thrived against Atlanta throughout his career.
The Giants are expected to go big-game hunting this offseason, with Judge first and foremost among their targets. Turner could be a solid Plan B, as Brandon Crawford has just one year remaining on his contract and could shift to second base in 2023. The Giants have a ton of money to spend and the desire to land a major bat.
Pitching will likely be GM Mike Elias’ top priority this offseason, as the Orioles look to build on their surprising 2022 season. If Baltimore looks to add a big bat, shortstop would be a logical spot, as the O’s had a .641 OPS at the position last season. The Orioles’ payroll is among the lowest in the league, so if ownership chooses to start spending, Baltimore could make a big splash.
Another team in the market for a shortstop, the Cubs are believed to be ready to make a big signing from this talented class. Nico Hoerner played a solid shortstop in 2022, but Turner would provide a different level of impact atop Chicago’s lineup.
“A perennial All-Star-caliber, five-tool player with elite speed. At the plate, he has tremendous contact skills and is able to run his way to a high average and on-base percentage. He uses the whole field and has a compact, line-drive swing. However, there is also plus raw power in the bat and he is a player capable hitting 20-plus home runs a year. The speed plays, as he consistently runs hard 90s, puts pressure on the defense and steals 30 bags a year. A good athlete, he has the tools and skills to be a solid defender at a premium, middle-of-the-diamond position. The question will be how the speed ages moving into his 30s and how he is able to adapt his game as the athleticism starts to diminish. He will play next season at 29 and there are enough prime years remaining to garner a significant contract from what will be a robust market for his services.”
As the scout mentioned, one of the pressing questions is how Turner’s speed will be affected as he gets older. Offensively, Turner had the worst whiff (26.3 percent) and chase (33.1 percent) rates of his career in 2022, trends that could become an issue if he’s not in a lineup as stacked as the Dodgers were. Defensively, Turner had a +12 Outs Above Average in 2018 but hasn’t approached that number since, combining for a +4 OAA between 2019-22. He was at an even 0 OAA this season, meaning he was league-average at shortstop.
FOR COMP'S SAKE
Corey Seager cashed in last offseason with a 10-year, $325 million deal -- and although Turner is 14 months older than Seager was when he became a free agent, it’s conceivable that he will land a comparable deal. Turner enters free agency having played 213 more games with over 1,000 more career plate appearances than Seager had at the same time, but their slash lines are similar: .302/.355/.487 for Turner, .297/.367/.504 for Seager. Seager’s power numbers were higher, but Turner has 315 more hits, 192 more runs scored and 218 more stolen bases. Turner might not land the biggest average annual value of the offseason -- Judge is likely to have that honor -- but he could very well score the most guaranteed money of any free agent.