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Diamondbacks talking to Justin Turner

Seems the team are still looking to upgrade their right-handed hitting.

Los Angeles Dodgers v Arizona Diamondbacks Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images

The team’s potential interest in Evan Longoria was something we’ve talked about already this winter. But another name was mentioned by Jon Heyman, saying the Diamondbacks are “among about a half dozen teams in on Justin Turner.” That would certainly be one way to address the third-base situation. Turner had a solid 116 OPS+ last season, though oddly, the right-handed hitter was actually better against just left-handed pitching:
vs. LHP: .275/.345/.389 = .734 OPS
vs. RHP: .279/.352/.457 = .809 OPS
These reverse splits apply over his career too, though the gap is smaller (.839 vs. .818).

The two main qualms I have about Turner are his age and the cost. He turned 38 last month, and though his numbers have been solid, there are not many players capably of posting an OPS+ above 100 at that age. The last to do so was Nelson Cruz in 2019. In contrast, of the five 38-year-old position players to appear in the majors last year, all of whom played in 50 games or more, the best hitter was Joey Votto’s 87 OPS+. That was basically a plummet off a cliff from the 139 OPS+ Votto had the previous season, when he was 37, Turner’s age this year. So the potential for a Justimplosion is non-zero. even if his OPS+ has been at or above 100 every season since 2012.

Despite this, he’s probably not going to be cheap. He earned $20 million last year as a Dodger, though the team opted to pay $2 million and buy out his contract option (which came with a $16 million price tag) for next season. Is he going to want a contract that’s longer than one year? Even if third-base is a position where the Diamondbacks don’t have an obvious prospect coming up, like they do at other positions, I’m reluctant to commit long-term to a player at this age. Additionally, though a relatively minor consideration, there’s a question about his defense, which is going to be on the downward side of the aging curve, to put it very mildly. A part-time role as DH could alleviate some of that.

It feels to me that the Longoria discussions might be more along the lines of what the D-backs want. Though, of course, it’s as much about what the players want, not forgetting what other teams want them. I must confess to a kneejerk reaction against Turner, who was never exactly one of my favorite players, on the Evil Empire roster. Still, at one point I’d have said the same about Zack Greinke, and I eventually grew to appreciate him well enough!