Another day, another free agent of interest to the Boston Red Sox.
The Sox have made offers to several free agents this offseason, but most opted to sign elsewhere. Most of their additions thus far are relief pitchers; they signed Joely Rodriguez, Chris Martin, and Kenley Jansen, and acquired Wyatt Mills from the Kansas City Royals. Masataka Yoshida is their only non-pitching signing, and expectations are in the stratosphere for the highest-paid Japanese position player in MLB history. He’s joining a lineup that’s gotten markedly worse since the 2022 season ended; Xander Bogaerts and JD Martinez are gone, and Rafael Devers’ future is unclear.
The Sox must patch their lineup together, but nearly all of the top free-agent hitters are long gone, paid by teams feeling more urgency to compete. They’ll either have to make some serious trades, or settle for lower-level free agents. According to MLB Network’s Jon Heyman, the Red Sox are “heavily in the mix” for Justin Turner.
Red Sox interested in veteran slugger Justin Turner
Turner just turned 38, making him three years older than Martinez. The longtime Dodger is coming off a season in which he hit .278/.350/.438 over 128 regular-season games. Like Martinez and many sluggers around the league, he saw his power go out in a big way this year; after hitting 27 home runs in 2021, he collected 13 this season. Several balls that might have been home runs in previous seasons were doubles in 2022; he hit 36 two-baggers in 128 games, compared to 22 of them in 151 games the year before.
Despite the diminished power, Turner’s plate discipline continues to be well above average; he has a career 15% strikeout rate (league average 20.8%) and 9% walk rate (MLB avg. 8.3%).
What would Turner do for the Red Sox, exactly? Presumably, he’d be their designated hitter, though he’s spent the bulk of his career at third base. He’s made 963 appearances at the hot corner, as well as 133 at second base, 46 at shortstop, and 39 at first. In 2022, he split time at third (66 appearances) and DH (62) for the Dodgers. He could do the same for the Sox, sharing both jobs with Devers.
Turner would bring a productive bat and veteran presence to a club that’s lost several of its longtime anchors. Bogaerts, Martinez, and Christian Vázquez are gone, and re-signing Nathan Eovaldi doesn’t seem to be a priority. At this point, the only position player remaining from the 2018 roster is Rafael Devers, and Chris Sale is the only starting pitcher left from that championship rotation. Coming to Boston would also reunite him with former Dodgers teammates Jansen, Martin, and Kiké Hernández.
Speaking of postseasons, Turner is a career .270/.370/.460 hitter over 86 postseason games. It’s hard to see the 2023 Red Sox being in the position in which that experience would matter, but anything is possible.
However, Heyman reported Aaron Judge (Arson Judge) was signing with the San Francisco Giants and was a key reason fans believed Xander Bogaerts was on the brink of returning to the Sox during Winter Meetings. Hours later, he agreed to an 11-year, $280M contract with the San Diego Padres. Sox Chief Baseball Officer Chaim Bloom later revealed the Sox were never close to Bogaerts’ other offers, and they were fairly certain he’d be choosing another team the day before it became official.
On Saturday, Heyman suggested the Sox were close to re-signing JD Martinez, and he came to terms with the Los Angeles Dodgers that evening. At this point, many fans joke that whatever he says is the opposite of what will actually happen.
Update: Red Sox signing Justin Turner to 2-year deal with opt-out after first
It looks like third time’s the charm for Heyman, because Turner is, in fact, coming to Boston. The Sox are signing him to a 2-year contract with an opt-out after 2023. According to ESPN’s Joon Lee, he’ll spend the bulk of his time DH-ing or platooning with Triston Casas at first (hence the Eric Hosmer DFA on Friday), while Devers stays at third.