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Yankees Potential Free Agent Target: Justin Turner

Don’t look now, but the market dynamics could theoretically (and potentially) pair Turner with the Yankees

MLB: Los Angeles Dodgers at San Diego Padres Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

The Yankees might be considering Carlos Rodón and Nathan Eovaldi, but what they really need is to address the lineup. Pitching more than held its own the whole year, even in the postseason and, specifically, the American League Championship Series. The offense, however, was a problem since late July and still is, even after re-signing Aaron Judge.

Now, doing a quick review of the lineup and the offense, we can say that catcher, first base, center field, right field, and designated hitter are covered by Jose Trevino (a defensive wizard), Anthony Rizzo, Harrison Bader, Aaron Judge, and Giancarlo Stanton, respectively.

DJ LeMahieu will occupy either second or third base, depending on what the Yankees choose to do with Gleyber Torres and Josh Donaldson, and shortstop is another question mark. Left field should also be upgraded.

Speaking of third base, Donaldson was just not good with the bat last year. The Yankees could be working to find a trade, but his salary (north of $20 million) and performance are important roadblocks to a deal. If the Bombers manage to flip him, they could go with LeMahieu and another veteran to share time with him. That veteran could very well be Justin Turner.

Granted, Turner is 38, but has a streak of nine consecutive seasons with a wRC+ over 120 and that includes 2022. Landing on the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2014 changed his career (and his swing) and he has done nothing but mash since then.

Turner is, however, a high-maintenance player in the sense that he usually misses some time with injury every year. However, with the exception of the 2020 season for obvious reasons, he has managed to play at least 100 games every year since 2014.

A few weeks ago, the Dodgers declined a club option worth $16 million, making Turner a free agent. Although he certainly won’t be a priority signing for the Yanks, if his market doesn’t develop as hoped and they can’t find a solution for the hot corner, there could be a match here.

So far, it has been reported that the Miami Marlins have some degree of interest in him. Not much else has risen to the surface, though. Given the dynamics of the market and the prices being paid around the league, Turner could potentially be affordable for the Yanks.

Turner is declining, but it has been slow rather than sudden, and he remains a productive player to this day with his .339 xwOBA in 2022 (75th percentile). Here is a rolling chart of his wOBA:

Baseball Savant

The Yankees might be able to squeeze another 115-120 wRC+ season from the two-time All-Star. Turner has a high-contact profile that seems to suit what the team needs at the moment, as he ranked in the 82nd percentile in expected batting average (xBA) in 2022 and is a career .289 hitter.

In 2022, Turner slashed .278/.350/.438 with 13 home runs, 36 doubles, and a 123 wRC+ in 532 plate appearances. He is like a right-handed version of Michael Brantley, but playing third instead of the outfield.

Turner is known to still be a productive player, as he was a 2.4 fWAR contributor at age-37 this past season in 128 games, and had 4.2 fWAR in 2021. Hitting comes easy for him, even though he is an average fielder at best.

The good thing about Turner is that he wouldn’t necessarily have to be an everyday third baseman, as the Yankees have enough flexibility to be able to play LeMahieu there a lot. Between injuries and load management, he could easily get 400-450 plate appearances.

By the look of things, Turner likely won’t be as expensive or costly as initially thought, so he should, at the very least, be considered an option for the Yankees in 2023.