Not long ago, yours truly sat here writing up a trade target piece for Alex Verdugo. While acknowledging the possibility, the hurdles of a trade with Boston left me pessimistic. Well, the unlikely became reality in that case. Surely, signing a free agent with a short history with the Red Sox wouldn’t be nearly as problematic, right? In comes Justin Turner.
It’s easy to dismiss Turner as a bad fit with the Yankees, but the reality is, he presents a reliable option to a lineup that lacked those for the better part of last season. The Yankees entered the winter knowing they needed to address their depth, and they did so in the outfield, but their infield remains on the thinner side.
At this point in his career, Turner can’t provide a massive workload at third base, and his fewer than 80 games at the position across the last two seasons illustrate that pretty well. He can spot start there, while spending chunks of time at first base and DH.
Given that, you may think the Yankees should look elsewhere; after all, Giancarlo Stanton and Anthony Rizzo aren’t going anywhere. But we mustn’t write those two positions off as filled by Stanton and Rizzo, and we should look at the big picture.
Stanton has missed significant time in four out of the last five seasons, and last year he was also able to fill in for over 30 games in the outfield when he was healthy. Rizzo will get all the opportunities to be the everyday first baseman and show he’s recovered from last year’s concussion troubles. But Turner would be a very useful backup for Rizzo, handling assignments against tough lefties.
That should carve out plenty of playing time for a quality veteran bench bat. Turner could spell the players at the corners, and handle DH duties if and when Stanton is down. It’s a role he’s more than qualified for. Even at the age of 38, Turner posted a robust .276/.345/.455 line and a 114 OPS+.
That kind of production would be a boon in a part-time player. We’ve touched on this many times this winter, but it bears repeating, the Yankees handed too many at-bats to hitters that ended up around replacement level last season. Bolstering their reserve ranks should remain a priority as we near spring training. With Isiah Kiner-Falefa gone to Toronto, the Yankees don’t have much in the way of infield depth at the major league level outside of Oswald Peraza, and even he may start the year at Triple-A to continue getting everyday reps.
Turner admittedly would cost more than your run-of-the-mill depth backup. But he almost certainly won’t require anything more than a one-year pact at this point in his career. FanGraphs predicted before the offseason that Turner would earn $10 million on a one-year contract. Sure, that might be pricey for a part-time player, but with the signing of Marcus Stroman, the Yankees are all but committed to crossing the fourth and final luxury tax barrier. They don’t need to worry about thresholds at this point because that die has been cast, so there’s little downside to committing more money to this all-in 2024 campaign, other than, you know, costing Hal Steinbrenner some change.
If the Yankees are truly all-in for this season, they should show it by committing real resources to addressing their depth, and acquiring veterans on one-year deals is one way to do that. They did so with Verdugo in the outfield, and Turner offers a sensible opportunity to do so on the infield dirt.