The Blue Jays will have a new designated hitter for the 2024 season, as they have reportedly agreed to a one-year, $13 million contract with a free agent. Justin Turner. A Vayner Sports client could earn an additional $1.5 million based on roster bonuses and performance incentives, bringing his deal to a maximum of $14.5 million. The contract is still awaiting physical completion.
Turner turned 39 in November, but he certainly showed no signs of his age in 2023, when he hit .276/.345/.455 with 23 home runs, 31 doubles, an 8.1% walk rate, and a 17.6% strikeout rate. average in 146 plate appearances and 626 plate appearances with the Red Sox.
Measured by wRC+, Turner was roughly 14% better than league average at the plate — and his impressive 10th consecutive season was at least 14% above bat average. He was one of the best remaining corner outfielders and designated hitter options and would install a “professional hitter” in Toronto's lineup – one generally respected for his leadership and presence in the clubhouse as well.
The consistency that Turner brings to the plate is pretty remarkable. He hasn't batted below .275, posted an OBP under .339, batted below .438 or struck out in more than 18% of his appearances in any of the past 10 seasons since establishing himself as a regular starter with the Dodgers in 2014. Overall , he was a .293/.371/.486 hitter at the time. He averaged 24 home runs and 35 doubles in 162 games played during that decade-long span.
Turner's contract with the Red Sox was a two-year, $22.7 million contract, the second season of which was a player option. He earned an $8.3 million salary in 2023 and also received a $6.7 million buyout option when he declined to return to the open market. Turner is guaranteed less in this new contract than he was a year ago, although with incentives he will be able to match the roughly $15 million he eventually received during his only year in Boston. Since the player option would have netted him $7.7 million, he was clearly ahead of the curve in his decision to decline the player option.
With the Jays, Turner figures to serve as the primary hitter but could also split time at the hot corner with a fellow free agent signee Isiah Keener-Faleeva (Or another acquisition that has not yet been made). He's also logged 527 career runs at first base, including 289 last year in Boston, making him a viable spelling option Vladimir Guerrero Jr When he needs a break too.
If there's one flaw in the matchup between the two sides, from a team perspective, it's that Turner adds another right-handed bat to a lineup that already skews heavily toward that side of the plate. It effectively replaces left-handed hitting Brandon beltwho remained notably unsigned and had a solid year at the plate for the Jays in 2023 in a big platoon role.
As it stands, left fielder Dolton Varshocenter fielder Kevin Kirmayer And a player Cavan Biggio They are the only projected lefties in Toronto's lineup. No one in this group is a particularly formidable left-handed presence, and all are best served in a platoon order. Turner has slightly better career numbers against right-handers than left-handers, which helps alleviate some concerns, but the Jays can still struggle against elite right-handed pitchers at times, given their lack of balance in the lineup.
To date, Turner represents the biggest upgrade to Toronto's lineup this offseason. The Jays had a lively tour of Shohei Otani He also met with Yoshinobu YamamotoBut both players ended up signing with the Dodgers. The Jays were also said to have a strong interest in the left-handed swing Jock Pederson Before he signed a deal similar to Turner's with the D-backs.
The Jays have been linked to a number of first-time at-bats over the past month, and have spoken to representatives of free agents such as JD Martinez, Jorge Soler, Rhys Hoskins And Pederson. Their interest in Turner goes back to at least mid-December, and now that that has materialized in a trade, the Jays should be out of the running for as-yet unsigned DH options like Martinez and Soler. Turner joins Kiner-Falefa and Kiermaier and is now a former NPB right fielder Jarel Rodriguez As the Jays' notable free agent pickups so far in the 2023-24 season.
The addition of Turner should push the Blue Jays firmly into luxury tax territory for the first time. Toronto had a final payroll of $228 million before Agreeing to terms with Turner, For each resource list, and the Jays were already a little north of the $237 million luxury barrier. Turner would move both numbers forward by $13 million. Since the Jays are first-time tax payers, their penalty will be fairly light: a simple 20% tax on the first $20 million by which they exceed the threshold and another 30% tax on the next $20 million, if they exceed that threshold. coming.
In terms of signing Turner, they would end up paying $2.6 million in luxury fines, which wasn't much of a deterrent for them. The $240 million Opening Day payroll the Jays are now expected to make would be a franchise-record $30 million — surpassing the last high-water mark of $210 million previously set just last year.
Looking to the future, it still seems possible there could be more moves to be made for the Jays, who currently plan to split playing time at second base and third base between Biggio and Kiner-Falefa, Davis Schneider And Santiago Aspinal. Schneider, in particular, had an interesting debut in 2023 when he hit .276/.404/.603 — but that was a small sample of 141 plate appearances and came with a .369 BABIP as well as a 30.5% strikeout rate. Certainly some regression should be expected. Kiner-Falefa is known for his defensive versatility and is a useful option that is better than the average player. Biggio had a strong 2023 showing at the dish but never came close to replicating his 2019-20 numbers. Espinal is coming off a career-worst .248/.310/.335.
In the rotation, Toronto still faces some uncertainty at the back of the pack. Kevin Gusman, Chris Bassett And renewed Jose Berrios The formation of the top three is strong, however Yusei Kikuchi Lacked consistency year on year and Here's Manwah He struggled through a disastrous season on the mound. The aforementioned Rodriguez could eventually be a rotation option, but that's more likely in 2025, as he'll be subject to a strict number of roles this season. Highest probability Ricky Tiedemann He could debut in 2024 as well but so far has only four innings above the Double-A level.
The Blue Jays have been linked to several notable names who remain unsigned – Cody Bellinger, Blake Snell And Matt Chapman among them. Re-signing Chapman is a better fit from a roster-building standpoint, since Toronto already has Varsho, Kiermaier, and George Springer Across the infield and now Turner is at designated hitter, making the rotation including the DH spot more difficult. Adding another bat and/or rotation piece would help lessen the impact of losing key targets early in the winter, though it remains unclear how much ownership is willing to spend after already surpassing the franchise's previous spending levels.
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