The 2023 season wasn’t especially memorable for the Boston Red Sox, who finished in last place in a loaded AL East after posting a 78-84 record. Perhaps the most notable thing that happened for the Red Sox during the 2023 campaign was the firing of former chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom in mid-September.
However, one of the few bright spots for the Red Sox this past year was the season that veteran Justin Turner put together. After spending parts of nine seasons with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Turner joined the Red Sox on a deal that paid him $8.3 million in 2023 with an additional $1 million in incentives that the two-time All-Star ultimately reached.
Turner declined his $13.4 million player option for 2024 (instead collecting a $6.7 million buyout) after he slashed .276/.345/.455 with 23 home runs, 96 RBIs and an .800 OPS for the Red Sox.
Turner’s market will be somewhat limited by the fact that he recently turned 39, but don’t let his age fool you into thinking he’s exclusively a DH at this stage of his career. While any team signing Turner would likely envision him as their primary DH, he also saw time at first base, third base and second base for the Red Sox this past season, posting three defensive runs saved at first.
In my Just Baseball free agent predictions piece, Turner graded out as the 22nd best free agent this winter, with the projection that he would sign a one-year, $12 million deal. Here are five teams that could potentially be landing spots for Turner as he prepares for his 16th MLB season.
If the plan in Milwaukee is to retain former NL Cy Young Award winner Corbin Burnes and try to compete in 2024, improving the lineup that new manager Pat Murphy has to work with is imperative.
Turner would be an improvement over what the Brewers currently have internally at DH and both corner infield spots. While some of the teams on this list would probably use Turner almost exclusively at DH, the Brewers are perhaps the best fit for him because he could contribute at multiple defensive positions on a limited basis, as he did with the Red Sox in 2023.
What makes Turner such a good fit for the Brewers is that he’s likely only going to be a one-year commitment. Perhaps that will help the Brewers to make a postseason run in their final year with the aforementioned Burnes before he hits free agency. If not, general manager Matt Arnold could flip Turner in advance of the trade deadline for a minor league lottery ticket.
During his nine seasons with the Dodgers, Turner built a reputation as one of the most productive postseason players of his era, posting an .830 OPS under the brightest lights. Bruce Bochy, of course, was the manager of the division-rival San Francisco Giants for a majority of Turner’s time in L.A., so he’s well aware of the presence that Turner could bring as the Rangers try to repeat as World Series champions.
Turner would be the primary DH for the Rangers, replacing the production that will be lost if Mitch Garver departs in free agency and allowing Bochy to utilize Ezequiel Durán in a super-utility role.
The Nationals have dismantled their team since winning the 2019 World Series, so if Turner is looking for one last chance to win a second title, heading to D.C. wouldn’t be in his best interests.
However, general manager Mike Rizzo still has to field a team in 2024, and the Nationals have needs at DH and third base. Two years ago, the Nationals signed Nelson Cruz to a one-year, $15 million deal, even as it was clear they didn’t have a path to contention. If they present a similar offer to Turner, he would be hard-pressed not to accept it, especially knowing that he could be flipped to a contending team in the summer.
Seattle traded Eugenio Suárez to the Arizona Diamondbacks in November, and will probably see Teoscar Hernández depart in free agency.
President of baseball operations Jerry Dipoto loves to make trades — perhaps to a fault sometimes — so it’s entirely possible he has something up his sleeve. But there’s no doubt that the Mariners need to make up for the right-handed production lost from Suárez, and, likely, Hernández.
Turner would actually be a perfect Dipoto addition, because he would fill a need, slotting in at DH and also giving Scott Servais an occasional option at third base. Plus, assuming he signs for just a single season, Dipoto could consider trading him next summer, probably regardless of whether the Mariners are contending or not.
Obviously, the Cubs are hoping that Shohei Ohtani will be their DH next year, which would nix the possibility of signing Turner. Chicago, though, is hardly seen as the favorite to land Ohtani, so while president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer and company might make a serious push for the two-time AL MVP, it could prove to be wishful thinking.
The same is probably true with the idea of trading for Pete Alonso, with no current evidence that the New York Mets plan to move him.
Signing former Philadelphia Phillies slugger Rhys Hoskins to a “pillow” contract might end up being the most realistic way for the Cubs to upgrade with a right-handed hitting 1B/DH type. But Turner would make sense as a fall-back option.