When news of the Justin Turner signing broke on Sunday, many Red Sox fans immediately went into panic mode with regard to Rafael Devers.
Even though Turner has spent the bulk of his career at third, reports indicate that the Sox plan to use him primarily as the designated hitter and at first base. If they cowboy up (remember those days?) and finally pay Devers, having Turner should only provide the Sox with depth and flexibility at the hot corner.
It’s a logical setup, but fear has a way of pushing logic out the window. Fans are concerned that Turner isn’t shipping up to Boston to provide depth, but is really the club’s contingency plan for Devers. The supposition is simultaneously ridiculous and entirely feasible, but that’s pretty much how it’s gone in Boston since the 2018 championship.
Did the Red Sox sign Justin Turner as a contingency plan in case they have to trade Rafael Devers?
Trading Mookie Betts for a mediocre return was unfathomable, and losing Xander Bogaerts, especially after the Betts debacle, was unacceptable. Would they really follow that up by signing a 38-year-old to replace a 26-year-old superstar?
Last offseason, the Sox signed Trevor Story in case Bogaerts left. Of course, Story is six weeks younger than Bogaerts, not 12 years older, and the Sox signed him before attempting to negotiate with their longtime shortstop. But who’s to say the Sox wouldn’t sign Turner to bridge the gap to someone like Blaze Jordan? Boston’s No. 9 prospect plays third and first, and spent the 2022 season hitting .289/.363/.445 with 30 doubles and 12 homers across 120 games between Low- and High-A. Two years of Turner – though he can opt out after the first – followed by a club-controlled rookie like Jordan, would be hundreds of millions cheaper than extending Devers.
Of course, banking on a prospect – especially one still so far from the top of the farm – is a serious risk, and one the Sox have already been accused of taking this offseason. Last week, Scott Boras strongly suggested that the organization’s high hopes for Marcelo Mayer, their 19-year-old shortstop prospect in High-A, influenced how they approached negotiations with Bogaerts.
It’s understandable that fans are worried after everything they’ve been through this month, and in the last three years. No fan base – no matter how many championships their team has won – should have to endure losing two cornerstone players in less than three years simply because the billionaires who own their favorite team have decided unproven free agents are the only guys worthy of the big bucks. It’s not about winning more championships; it’s about learning from past mistakes and paying the right players.
It’s not overdramatic, nor is it hyperbolic, to say that many Sox fans are devastated by repeatedly losing star players to whom they’ve formed deep attachments, especially because these losses might have been avoided. Worse yet, the organization spent months telling the public that Bogaerts was the ‘top priority’ and ‘Option A,’ only to never make him a truly competitive offer.
The post-Mookie Betts era in Boston was already fraught, at best, but what little trust remained between club and fan base evaporated with Bogaerts’ departure.
Sox fans were already bracing themselves to lose Devers before Turner arrived.