The Milwaukee Brewers have apparently missed out on one of their rumored targets, as current reports have Marcus Semien — who was connected to the club for the first time just earlier today — signing a one-year pact with the Toronto Blue Jays. But Semien is not the only upper echelon free agent that the club was linked to on Tuesday, as Jon Heyman broke the news that the Cream City Nine is one of the “mystery teams” in on third baseman Justin Turner:
The Brewers are one of two mystery teams showing interest in Justin Turner. Dodgers, Jays and one more mystery contender are in the derby. Turner will only consider contenders but has a final 4.— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) January 26, 2021
Turner was famously non-tendered by the Mets back in 2013, then signed with the Dodgers and batted a cumulative .302/.382/.503 from 2014-2020, good for a 141 wRC+ with 116 home runs in 3,076 plate appearances. He earned one All-Star appearance (2017) and finished in the top-15 of MVP voting in each year from 2016-2018. He accrued 26.6 fWAR and 28.9 bWAR during his seven seasons in Dodger blue and helped propel Los Angeles to a World Series title in 2020.
Turner turned 36 in November and has dealt with some injuries in recent seasons, but he’s shown little sign of slowing down at the plate even as he ages. According to Statcast his 90.3 MPH average exit velocity in 2020 was the same as it was in 2019, and his hard contact rate actually improved by a point from 43% to 44%. Both his hard contact rate and exit velocity rated in the 76th percentile of the league this past season, and his barrel rate was in the 75th percentile. He ranked among the league’s elite in terms of expected batting average (93rd percentile), expected slugging (93rd), expected wOBA (95th). Though his home run power was down as he socked only four dingers in 175 plate appearances, Turner finished with a .307/.400/.460 slash line for a 140 wRC+ during the most recent campaign. He continues to thrive at putting the ball in play (88th percentile K rate) and getting on base via the free pass (66th percentile BB rate).
Turner’s glove at third base has rated as a negative in the past couple of seasons, but his ability with the bat more than outweighs any defensive shortcomings he might come along with. Turner was rated as MLB Trade Rumors’ #14 free agent at the outset of the offseason, predicted to receive a two-year, $24 mil deal. But his camp is reportedly seeking a four-year contract, which take him through the end of his age-39 season, with the Dodgers apparently only willing to go to two years. In addition to the Brewers, the Blue Jays and one other contender are believed to be the finalists for his services.
It seems highly unlikely that the David Stearns, Matt Arnold, and the rest of the Brewers’ brass would consider that long of a commitment to someone as long in the tooth as Turner. The Brewers have previously struck gold on one-year, high-AAV deals with the likes of Mike Moustakas and Yasmani Grandal, and it seems much more plausible that Milwaukee’s comfort range is more within the one- or two-year range than it is for three of four. Really, any kind of interest in a free agent of Turner’s caliber comes as quite a surprise as the club has strongly suggested that payroll would fall for a second consecutive offseason heading into 2021. But stranger things have happened, and if there is anything that fans in Milwaukee have learned by now, it is to expect the unexpected when it comes to the moves executed by this front office regime.
Statistics courtesy of Fangraphs and Baseball Savant