Dodgers fan favorite Justin Turner agrees to deal with Red Sox
A month after the team declined an option in his contract and let him become a free agent, the veteran infielder agreed to a deal with the Boston Red Sox for two years and about $22 million, with an opt-out after next season, according to a person with knowledge of the situation who wasn’t authorized to speak publicly.
Once finalized, the move will mark the latest notable departure this offseason for the Dodgers, who have already seen Trea Turner, Cody Bellinger, Tyler Anderson and several other contributors from last season’s 111-win team depart in free agency.
Losing Turner, however, will mark the biggest change to the team’s rapidly evolving clubhouse.
Former Red Sox designated hitter J.D. Martinez agreed to a deal with the Dodgers in the latest low-cost upgrade this winter for the team.
After a storybook run together lasting almost a decade, a new chapter for Turner and the Dodgers is about to begin.
Early in the offseason, both sides indicated interest in a reunion.
Even after his $16 million option was declined following the season, Turner said he still hoped to end his career with the club that helped revitalize it a decade earlier.
A resolution to their negotiations never seemed imminent, though.
During a radio interview with KLAC-AM (570) last month, Turner indicated that luxury tax concerns were impacting the Dodgers’ talks with his camp.
And as the Dodgers inched closer to the $233 million threshold with a string of one-year signings for other veterans in the weeks since — pushing their current luxury tax payroll to an estimated $210 million, according to Fangraphs Roster Resource database — the possibility of Turner staying in L.A. increasingly diminished.
The clearest sign the Dodgers might move on came Saturday night, when they struck a one-year, $10 million deal with former Red Sox slugger J.D. Martinez — a player who profiled similar to Turner as a right-handed bat capable of serving as their designated hitter.
Combined with the emergence of highly-touted prospect Miguel Vargas at third base, it left Turner without an obvious spot in the Dodgers lineup for next season.
What had been unclear throughout free agency was whether Turner would get the multiyear deal he had been seeking.
Jason Heyward thought his career might be over after the Cubs released him. The Dodgers are giving him a chance, signing him to minor league contract.
But after reportedly fielding interest from the Miami Marlins and Arizona Diamondbacks earlier in the offseason, Turner was finally persuaded by a final push from the Red Sox, who wooed him with the type of offer the Dodgers were always going to be unlikely to meet.
Nonetheless, Turner leaves behind a beloved legacy in Los Angeles.
A Lakewood native and Cal State Fullerton product who watched Kirk Gibson’s famous 1988 World Series home run from his grandmother’s living room, Turner’s career was floundering when he joined the organization.
He had batted .260 with eight home runs in his first five years in the majors with the Baltimore Orioles and New York Mets. The Mets had nontendered him after the 2013 season. And when he signed with the Dodgers in February 2014, it was originally a minor league contract.
But upon returning to the Southland, everything suddenly changed.
In 2014, Turner batted .340 with an .897 on-base-plus-slugging percentage to become the team’s everyday third baseman.
In 2015 and 2016, his new-look swing led to newfound power at the plate, helping him hit double-digit, and then 20-plus home runs for the first time in the big leagues.
A pitch clock, pickoff limit, the changing of shifts on defense and bigger bases could make for a different game in the upcoming season.
In 2017, he earned his first All-Star selection during a career-best season, posting a .945 OPS that helped lead the club to its first pennant in 29 years.
Though Turner’s numbers have regressed in every season since, he was still a key cog during the team’s run to the 2020 World Series, making a memorable diving tag in Game 7 of the NLCS before belting two home runs in the Dodgers Fall Classic defeat of the Tampa Bay Rays.
About his only true moment of controversy as a Dodger came during the team’s Game 6 title celebration that year, when he joined his teammates on the field despite having been removed from the game in the eighth inning because of a positive COVID-19 test.
That proved to be a rare exception to his otherwise sterling reputation in the community.
As a Dodger, Turner founded a nonprofit organization with his wife, Kourtney. He organized charity golf events, supported everything from homeless veterans to children with life-altering diseases around the Southland, and earlier this year hosted a 5K event that was attended by more than 1,200 participants — most of them Dodgers fans — at the Los Angeles Dream Center in Echo Park.
As Turner addressed the crowd on that September day, an appreciative smile was planted on his bearded face. He reflected on his time with the Dodgers, his status in Los Angeles and a nearly-decade-long connection between him, the team and his home city.
“It’s crazy looking back and seeing how everything, on all fronts, took off for me … since the day I put the Dodger uniform on,” Turner echoed weeks later, after being honored as MLB’s Roberto Clemente Award winner for his off-the-field endeavors. “Obviously it’s very special to me, growing up in Southern California and getting to wear that jersey.”
Now, Turner might have donned it for the very last time. He wanted to come back, and the Dodgers would have welcomed him. But after nine years together, they couldn’t find a way to make it work in free agency.
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