The Mets have been engaged with representatives for free agent corner infielder Justin Turner, reports Mike Puma of the New York Post. They join the Diamondbacks and incumbent Red Sox among the teams known to be in the mix for the 39-year-old.
Turner spent three and a half seasons in Queens over a decade ago. At the time, he looked like a versatile but unexceptional infielder. After hitting .265/.326/.370 as a Met, Turner caught on with the Dodgers for the 2014 campaign. That change of scenery and an overhauled swing launched Turner to stardom. He raked at a .296/.375/.490 clip in nine seasons with Los Angeles before signing with Boston an offseason ago.
Despite his age, Turner remains a very good hitter. In 626 plate appearances, he hit .276/.345/.455 with 23 home runs. Turner kept his strikeout percentage to a modest 17.6% clip with solid power and plate discipline. The righty-hitting Turner had dramatic platoon splits last season, particularly from a slugging perspective, but he traditionally fares as well or better against same-handed pitching.
While Turner hasn’t shown many signs of decline in the batter’s box, his defensive responsibilities have waned. In his final season as a Dodger, he spent an equal amount of time at third base and designated hitter. Turner didn’t see much defensive work in Boston, starting 98 times at DH. He manned the hot corner on seven occasions, picked up four starts at second, and opened 35 contests at first base. That’s in part because the Sox have Rafael Devers and Triston Casas at the infield corners. Yet it’s also a question how heavy a defensive workload Turner can handle at this stage of his career.
That shouldn’t be a concern for the Mets. Turner wouldn’t see much first base action barring an injury to Pete Alonso. New York doesn’t have proven solutions at third base or DH, however. Young hitters Brett Baty and Mark Vientos project as the respective starters. Both are formerly well-regarded prospects, yet neither has produced at the big league level thus far.
President of baseball operations David Stearns said at the Winter Meetings that the Mets weren’t looking for a third baseman. That preceded an unfortunate ACL tear for young infielder Ronny Mauricio, who’d seemed a strong candidate for the third base job before his winter ball injury. Whether that changes the calculus for Stearns and the front office isn’t clear, although Turner could fit at DH even if the Mets wanted to give Baty the hot corner.
MLBTR predicted a one-year, $16MM contract for Turner. The Mets have made clear their primary focus is the 2025 campaign, but they’re not prepared to concede the ’24 season. There’s a need for at least one middle-of-the-order offensive presence in addition to the rotation questions that have been the organization’s focus so far.