Veteran free agent Justin Turner was among the most reliable hitters in Boston last year, slashing a solid .275/.345/.455 with 23 home runs and a 17.6% strikeout rate. Taken together, that offensive production was 14% better than league average by measure of wRC+ despite Turner posting his highest strikeout rate since 2014 and lowest walk rate since 2016. Though Turner declined his player option with the Red Sox and decided to test the open market ahead of his age-39 season, the infielder spoke to reporters recently (as relayed by MassLive’s Chris Cotillo) regarding his free agency and his desire to return to the Red Sox.
“I would love to be back and be with the Sox,” Turner said, “…what I’ve heard from all these guys is how amazing this town is when you’re making a playoff run. I want to be a part of that. It has been A-plus across the board in everything we’ve done and that’s with finishing in fifth place in the AL East. I want to know what it’s like to play in a playoff game for the Red Sox, not against them.”
Though Turner made his desire to remain in Boston clear, he also admitted that he’s fielded interest from more teams this season than he did as a free agent last year. Cotillo notes that the Dodgers, Diamondbacks, Marlins, and Angels all made offers to the veteran last year. The Diamondbacks are once again rumored to be interested in Turner’s services this offseason, though it’s unclear what other clubs may have interest in Turner this offseason. That uncertainty surrounds the Red Sox, themselves, as the club’s level of interest in Turner for 2024 and beyond isn’t entirely clear.
MassLive’s Sean McAdam recently suggested that the Red Sox “may be reluctant” to offer Turner a a two-year guarantee this offseason, noting that newly-minted chief baseball officer Craig Breslow has spoken of the DH as a way to rest players. While McAdam notes that Breslow would not rule out having one player serve as the club’s regular DH, a desire to utilize players such as Masataka Yoshida at DH could limit the club’s interest in a reunion with Turner, who played 98 games at DH and combined for less than 400 innings of work in the field split between first, second, and third base in 2023.
Turner isn’t the only newly-minted free agent to recently discuss his future after spending 2023 in Boston. Veteran right-hander Corey Kluber has returned to the open market after a tough season in Boston where he posted a 7.04 ERA (65 ERA+) with a 7.11 FIP in 55 innings of work while striking out just 16.3% of batters faced. On top of the brutal on-field performance, Kluber battled shoulder injuries throughout the year that ultimately left him sidelined for the season by late June. Kluber was noncommittal when asked if he intends to continue his playing career in 2024, with Alex Speier of the Boston Globe relaying that the veteran righty simply responded to the question with “we’ll see.”
Given his deep struggles in Boston this season, it’s somewhat difficult to imagine the sides coming together on a reunion even if Kluber decides to pitch next season. While the Red Sox are expected to make pitching help a priority this offseason, the club already has right-handers Nick Pivetta, Tanner Houck, Kutter Crawford, and Garrett Whitlock as starting caliber options alongside Chris Sale for the middle-to-back of the club’s rotation, and the addition of Kluber at this stage of his career would be unlikely to move the needle for a club more in need of impact than depth in the starting rotation.
Brutal as the 2023 season was for Kluber, the righty was one of the best pitchers in the game not long ago. The 37-year-old’s illustrious career includes two AL Cy Young awards and an ERA title in 2017. While Kluber is certainly not the same pitcher he was back then, he was an effective back-end starter for the Rays and Yankees the past two seasons and could potentially draw interest from a club in need of depth this offseason, should he prove healthy enough to continue his playing career.