JULY 26: It’s been less than a week since Nationals GM Mike Rizzo spoke about how his team’s play leading up to the deadline would determine whether the front office would operate as buyers or sellers. The Nats have gone 1-4 since those comments, including a loss to the last-place Marlins and a three-game sweep at the hands of the Orioles in Baltimore.
There’s no indication yet that the Nationals are on the brink of a broad-reaching sell-off, but Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post reports that the Nationals are receiving “a lot” of interest in All-Star shortstop Trea Turner and have not firmly ruled out moving him (Twitter thread). It goes without saying that the Nats would need an overwhelming return in order to part with Turner, who is still owed about $4.82MM of this year’s $13MM salary and is controlled via arbitration through the 2022 season.
Broadly speaking, one would think that the 28-year-old Turner is an extension candidate more than a trade candidate, given the Nationals’ perennially high payroll, recent World Series victory and general “win-now” mindset. However, MLB Network’s Peter Gammons tweeted today that Nationals ownership doesn’t have plans to green-light a long-term extension with Turner.
Absence of an extension doesn’t necessarily mean that a trade of Turner is a foregone conclusion, of course. The Nationals will in all likelihood be aiming to contend in 2022, regardless of how their 2021 campaign plays out, and Turner would be a central figure in those efforts. But it’s also certainly possible that for a player of Turner’s caliber, the Nats could extract multiple near-MLB pieces and/or controllable young big leaguers who could both deepen the roster for the 2022 season and set them up nicely in the long run.
Turner, the No. 13 overall pick back in 2014, has established himself as one of MLB’s best all-around talents dating back to a breakout 2016 campaign. He’s a .301/.356/.489 hitter 92 home runs and 190 stolen bases in that time and, in deserving fashion, finally nabbed his first All-Star nod in 2021. Turner is batting .319/.367/.521 this season and entered play leading the National League with 199 total bases on the season. No one has swiped more bases than Turner since the start of the 2016 season, and FanGraphs ranks him 20th among all position players in wins above replacement in that span.
If Turner indeed were to hit the market, it’d be a major shakeup to a fairly limited crop of available infielders. Fellow shortstops Trevor Story and Javier Baez are the most notable player available, though neither is having a great year at the plate. Other (non-shortstop) possibilities include Jonathan Schoop, Eduardo Escobar, Whit Merrifield and Asdrubal Cabrera. Story has reportedly received some interest as a possible outside-the-box option in center field, and Turner could hold similar appeal — particularly since he’s actually played 387 innings of center field in the big leagues. (Story has played only shortstop in the Majors.)
The market for infield help is still developing — as is the trade market in general, despite the deadline’s proximity — but the Mariners, Brewers, Mets, Reds, White Sox, A’s have all been linked to infield upgrades (not necessarily at shortstop). The Padres, who originally drafted Turner, seem to be in on virtually every big name that hits the market, regardless of whether their roster presents a clear fit.
The Turner rumblings come at the same time as reports that Max Scherzer is at least open to waiving his 10-and-5 no-trade rights. While that doesn’t definitively signal the organization has made up its mind to sell this week, but it’s only natural to think that after slipping in recent weeks — or at least failing to gain much ground — hopeful buyers are beginning to circle and gauge the asking prices should the Nats eventually wave the white flag on 2021. Rizzo himself last week said that if the Nats do become sellers, “everything will be on the table, I would think.”