The Phillies have shortstop Trea Turner as their top priority, according to Jon Morosi of MLB Network. This lines up with reporting from Buster Olney and Jesse Rogers, both of ESPN, who each relay word from sources that feel the Phillies will sign one of the “Big Four” shortstops, which includes Turner as well as Carlos Correa, Xander Bogaerts and Dansby Swanson.
The Phillies have been looking for a solution at shortstop for a few years now. They signed Didi Gregorius going into 2020, giving him a one-year deal. He performed well enough in the shortened season to stick around on a two-year deal, but that went south almost immediately. After he hit just .209/.270/.370 in 2021, there was some speculation that the Phillies would jump into last year’s big shortstop sweepstakes, featuring Correa, Corey Seager, Javier Baez, Trevor Story and Marcus Semien.
They ultimately stayed on the sidelines, giving Gregorius a chance to redeem himself in the last year of his deal. That didn’t work out, as he hit .210/.263/.304 this year and got released in August. They had to turn to their backup plan, which was prospect Bryson Stott. He had struggled over the first couple of months, hardly surprising given that it was his first major league action, getting optioned to the minors in April but returning after just a couple of weeks.
At the end of May, Stott was sitting on a miserable .123/.179/.151 batting line for a wRC+ of -8. Something seemed to click in June, as he hit .257/.318/.401 for a wRC+ of 102 from that point on, bringing his final line up to .234/.295/.358 and a wRC+ of 83. His glovework at short was considered below average by Defensive Runs Saved and Outs Above Average, while Ultimate Zone Rating had him just a smidge above. That’s hardly a disastrous season for a rookie, but the Phils evidently didn’t see enough to consider Stott their long-term solution at the position and seem to be involved in the shortstop market for a second straight year. The club declined Jean Segura’s option, creating an opening at second base that Stott could theoretically fill. Both DRS and OAA liked his glovework better on that side of the bag, making it a sensible approach for the club.
While any of the four shortstops would be logical for this plan, Turner would certainly be an exciting fit. In his time in the big leagues so far, he’s proven himself to be one of the best all-around players in the game, succeeding in just about every aspect. In 849 career games, he’s hit 124 home runs and stolen 230 bases. His career batting line is .302/.355/.487, leading to a wRC+ of 124. UZR doesn’t like his work at shortstop, but both DRS and OAA have him above average for his career. For a Phillies team that’s full of sluggers like Kyle Schwarber, Nick Castellanos and Rhys Hoskins, a dynamic player like Turner, who turns 30 in June, would provide an exciting new element.
Of course, given his elite skills, he will have to paid at a high level. MLBTR predicted a contract of $268MM over eight years, an average annual value of $33.5MM. The Phillies currently have about $179MM committed to 2023, per Roster Resource, with a competitive balance tax number of $191MM. Last year’s Opening Day payroll was $229MM, per Cot’s Baseball Contracts, meaning they still have plenty of room to work with if they plan on spending at a comparable level this year. They would likely want to keep some powder dry for addressing other needs, such as their pitching staff, but it’s easy to see how they could fit a Turner-sized contract in here. Even adding about $30MM or so to that CBT number doesn’t get them over the lowest threshold for 2023, which will be $233MM. Plus, given their World Series run in 2022, they likely banked some extra revenues that could potentially lead to a bigger budget in 2023.
Turner received and rejected a qualifying offer from the Dodgers, meaning any team that signs him will have to pay a cost beyond just the money. Since the Phillies paid the luxury tax in 2022, they would have to forfeit their second-highest and fifth-highest picks in the next draft, in addition to seeing their international bonus pool dropped by $1MM. If Turner does indeed sign with someone other than the Dodgers, they would receive an extra pick after the fourth round, a diminished return because they also paid the luxury tax this year.
Of course, the Phillies won’t be alone in any pursuit of Turner. Morosi mentions that the Giants are involved, but adds that they will likely want to see how the Aaron Judge situation plays out before pivoting to a shortstop pursuit. Turner’s also been connected in rumors to the Cubs and Mariners, while there are other teams that would make speculative sense. If one of those clubs would eventually edge out the Phillies and acquire Turner, they could pivot to the other big names, having already been connected to Bogaerts.