For all the trade talk surrounding the Dodgers this off-season, little has manifested. In fact, the biggest “splash” has been the re-signing of Rocky Gale to a minor league contract. So far, the big rumors have been the Dodgers targeting a right-handed power bat for third base. The domino effect would of course shift Justin Turner to first base. With Turner having hit a slightly regressed but still solid, .290/.372/.509 with 27 home runs in 2019, why are the Dodgers focused on replacing him at third a year before his contract expires?
— Ron Bohning (@RonBohning) November 28, 2019
It’s no secret that Justin Turner has lost a step defensively at third the last couple seasons, but last year it became more obvious. As a team, the 2019 Dodgers had the second fewest putouts, second fewest double plays, fourth lowest defensive runs saved, fifth lowest fielding percentage, and fifth most errors at third base in the National League. Justin Turner himself posted his lowest ever dWAR of -0.6.
Furthermore, even though his 22 double plays turned were the second most in his career, it was significantly lower than Josh Donaldson and Anthony Rendon who the Dodgers have been targeting. They also turned the second and third most double plays, had the second & third most assists, and the third and fourth most putouts in the National League. Lastly, Donaldson and Rendon have respectable dWAR ratings that are not in the red.
More Turner at Dodgers Nation
- Dodgers Should Plan for the Decline of Justin Turner
- Justin Turner Speaks on Misconception of the ‘Fly Ball Revolution’
As previously stated, Justin Turner’s offense wasn’t terrible by any means, but there is room for improvement. A .290 BA is certainly good, but it was actually Turner’s second lowest as a Dodger. His 24 doubles were also his second lowest as a Dodger, he’d only hit fewer (21) in 2014 when he had just 322 plate appearances. While his 27 home runs tied him for most in his career, he had just 67 RBIs to show from it. Only three players of the 71 that hit 27+ home runs, had the same or fewer RBIs. Lastly, his plate discipline has waned. In 2019, Turner struck out 88 times, up from the 54 and 56 strikes the previous two seasons.
While Justin Turner’s offensive production was decent, Rendon and/or Donaldson are certainly better assets at the position. Yes. Donaldson’s BA is lower and he did strike out more. He also hit walked a lot more, mashed 10 more home runs, and drove in 17 more RBIs. His .900 OPS was 8th best among top MLB third basemen.
Anthony Rendon is what Turner would look like if Turner had found his swing and approach sooner in his career. Among top MLB third basemen, he has a third best 12.4 BB% coupled with a fifth best 13.3 K%, hit second most 2Bs (44), 8th most home runs (34), and led all of baseball with 126 RBIs.
Justin Turner has been marred by injuries the past few seasons. A fractured wrist followed by a groin strain in 2018 limited his appearances to just 103 games. Last season, he appeared in 135 games. Definitely more, but he was still listed as day-to-day four times with shin, hamstring, ankle, and back ailments. The fact that that he was never placed on the injured list despite four bouts with four different injuries, leads one to believe these are the pains of an aging player.
Justin Turner’s Impact
Justin Turner has been an key player since coming to the Dodgers in 2014. In that time he’s slashed .302/.381/.506 while averaging 18.6 home runs and 63.8 RBI. His 2014-2017 seasons were defensively sound — he was nominated for an NL Gold Glove — and he is a valued veteran presence in the clubhouse. That being said, Father Time is taking its toll.
The Dodgers still value his offensive production and that veteran presence, but it comes at a cost if he remains at third.
Rosenthal confirms #Dodgers interest in Josh Donaldson. Can’t lie, I’m intrigued by the possibility, especially if they can’t bring in Anthony Rendon. One thing seems clear, though, is that Justin Turner will be playing a lot of first base next season.
— Dustin Nosler (@DustinNosler) November 22, 2019
Shifting Turner to first base removes some of the defensive liability, but it comes at a different cost. Turner at first, pushes Muncy to second which leaves top prospect, Gavin Lux out. Lux has outgrown the minors and needs to have playing time at the Major League level in order to grow as a player. Therefore, if the Dodgers acquire a new third baseman, a first base platoon of Turner and Muncy can be foreseen.
So who should the Dodgers acquire for third base?
In my opinion Anthony Rendon is the better long term candidate. Josh Donaldson is only year younger than Justin Turner. A similar visit from Father Time is likely to occur in another season or two, leaving the Dodgers on the hunt again by 2022. Rendon is currently 29 years old and the Dodgers could expect the next 4-5 years to be very productive. He is quality defender and is very good across the board in all offensive categories. While signing Rendon may be expensive the Dodgers don’t have a player in the minors that can match up any time soon. Alternately, the Dodgers could sign Donaldson for two years and hope that Nolan Arenado opts for free agency in 2022.
As a fan, who would you like to see represent the Dodgers at third?