The Brewers Are in on Justin Turner. Do They Have a Chance to Land Him?
The Brewers are making a push for the former All-Star, but they could very well come up short.
With pitchers and catchers set to report to camps in a matter of days, the Justin Turner sweepstakes appear to be heating up, and the Brewers are reportedly still involved.
The Brewers have been linked to Turner for a couple of weeks now, but these reports are the first of an official offer being extended by Milwaukee. Not only that, but the proposed contract is said to be “competitive,” and the Brewers are described as “hopeful” that they can bring the veteran third baseman to the Cream City.
Naturally, these rumors have had Brewers fans buzzing with excitement, and rightfully so. Since joining the Dodgers in 2014, he has slashed .302/.382/.503 and posted a 141 wRC+ and 26.6 fWAR, making him the third-best offensive third baseman in the game in that span and the seventh most valuable overall. He may be entering his age-36 season, but Turner’s bat has shown no signs of slowing down. In 2020, he registered a 140 wRC+ and was on pace for roughly 3.5 fWAR over a 162-game season.
Turner’s underlying metrics remain strong as well. His average exit velocity of 90.3 miles per hour was tied for the second-best mark of his career, and his barrel rate of 11.2% and hard hit rate of 44% were both the highest they’ve ever been. The former All-Star has unsurprisingly lost some speed as he has aged, and he has taken some steps back defensively, but his bat remains potent. PECOTA projects him to continue producing at the plate this year with a .281/.371./474 slash and 132 DRC+. That would be a vast improvement over the Luis Urias and Daniel Robertson tandem the Brewers are currently expected to roll with at the hot corner.
That is, if they can successfully sign Turner. The amount of #BrewersTwitter accounts featuring the recent World Series champion third baseman donning a Brewers cap as their profile picture indicate a fair amount of excitement and optimism within the fan base, but perhaps some pumping of the brakes is necessary.
Every report regarding Turner comes with the same disclaimer: the Dodgers are the favorites. Los Angeles is once again projected to be the best team in baseball, has an interest in bringing him back, and has a fanbase that loves their longtime third baseman. That’s a clear-cut recipe for Turner to return, even after the Dodgers shelled out over $100 million to Trevor Bauer.
There is a case to be made that Turner doesn’t view the Brewers as legitimate suitors but is instead using them to drive up the offers from the Dodgers or even the Mets. Under David Stearns and Matt Arnold, the Brewers have been careful to avoid letting information about interest in and negotiation with trade or free agent targets leak to the public. There were a couple of reports about the organization’s interest in Lorenzo Cain and Christian Yelich, but there were not consistent rumors that lasted for weeks. Yasmani Grandal’s deal in 2019 and the recently-announced Kolten Wong signing came out of nowhere.
The latest report of the Brewers making a competitive multi-year offer is an even rarer kind of rumor. Hearing this much information about Milwaukee’s involvement with a high-profile free agent is exciting but also rather unusual. The Dodgers have enough money to sign Turner, and his camp knows this. The reigning World Series champions are also a much more desirable destination than a small-market team that stumbled backward into an expanded playoff format after posting a sub-.500 record. They could be leaking information about a multi-year offer from the Brewers to push Los Angeles to offer him a third year or a higher annual salary.
Milwaukee’s interest in Turner sounds legitimate, and there is no reason to doubt that they have been in negotiations with him. However, there are reasons to be skeptical about their chances of landing him. It’s far more likely that they’re the last resort if Los Angeles, New York, or other interested clubs don’t satisfy his demands rather than the veteran’s preferred destination. Turner manning the hot corner for the Brewers in 2021 is a possibility, but don’t bet on it happening.