A steady but small decline in his batting average since joining the Los Angeles Dodgers hasn’t stopped Justin Turner from appearing like one of the best infielders in this free agency class. He’s certainly drawing the interest of the St. Louis Cardinals, although he might end up going back to the team he’s played for the last 3 years.
Turner, 32, is coming off a strong season. His batting numbers have dropped a bit as he made a career high 622 plate appearances, but he did receive some MVP votes in the NL poll, and continued with terrific defense at third base. He batted .275 with a career high 27 home runs last season, while doing pretty well in the playoffs too, especially in the NLDS against the Washington Nationals. Overall, he’s batting .296 in Los Angeles since 2014 with a .856 OPS, helping turn his career back in the right direction.
Turner declined the qualifying offer from the Dodgers for $17.2 million. He’s expecting a $15-to-17 million per season deal which will last four or five seasons. That’s not unrealistic, but the added price of giving up a draft pick to get him obviously makes things more complicated. Turner has been one of the better infielders in the National League for the last couple of seasons, and there should be someone willing to give him a contract in the realm of what he’s asking for.
The Cardinals are looking for improved hitting everywhere, but their infield at the moment looks full: Carpenter, Diaz, Wong and Jhonny Peralta. Peralta, 34, is the weak link in all of this. The 34-year old appeared just 82 times for the Cards last season, posting his weakest numbers for the team since joining in 2013. It’s not going to be too much of a surprise if St. Louis try and move him in the next couple of months, as his $10 million salary might not be cheap, but it shouldn’t make him untouchable. In order to clear spending room for Turner, it’s worth it.
He might end up going back to the Dodgers. Despite their constant talk about cutting into the payroll and dealing with their debt, the Dodgers seem to be in contention mode, which means they can’t afford to lose players like Turner without having someone like him stepping up. Maybe Turner will give them some sort of home town discount in return for long term stability and financial security, and help the Dodgers stay under a certain threshold.