As frustrating as the Boston Red Sox’ 2023 season was, fans enjoyed watching a veteran slugger contribute to the lineup on a daily basis.
Justin Turner is a 15-year MLB vet who signed with Boston prior to last season. He appeared in 146 games, slashing .276/.345/.455 with 23 home runs, 7.4 oWAR, an 8.1% walk rate, and a 17.6% strikeout rate.
Turner spent roughly two-thirds of his season as the Red Sox’ designated hitter, but he did show some defensive value by logging time at first, second and third base. Manager Alex Cora valued Turner’s offensive contributions so much that the skipper sacrificed defense to get him into the lineup.
As a result of his big 2023 campaign, however, Turner opted out of his contract this offseason. By turning down his $13.4 million player option for next year, he earned $6.7 million in the form of a buyout from the Red Sox. The decision was widely expected but still came as a disappointment to Boston baseball fans hoping that the beloved veteran might return in 2024.
With roughly one month until Spring Training begins, Turner remains unsigned, though. Is there a chance he returns?
Latest updates on Justin Turner’s free agency after Red Sox departure
Jon Heyman of the New York Post recently published an article containing several nuggets of information from free agency and the trade market, including a discussion of Turner’s ongoing availability.
According to Heyman, Turner is a candidate to return to Boston given the Red Sox’ need for a right-handed bat.
Heyman noted that the New York Mets represent an intriguing landing spot for Turner, too. A deal between the two parties would represent a reunion given Turner played for them from 2010-2013. Although New York needs bullpen help, they also have a void at designated hitter that could be filled by a proven veteran contributor like Turner.
The Diamondbacks and Rangers are also “logical fits” for Turner, notes Heyman. A contract offer from one of the league’s biggest contenders could be enough for the veteran to sign with them. At this point in his career, Turner could be ring hunting, especially after his only World Series title came during the shortened 2020 campaign.
Red Sox could look to sign Justin Turner, other free agent sluggers
Exploring the Red Sox’ need for a right-handed power bat, Heyman identified several players as potential targets. Jorge Soler represents a key fit, but there’s a growing sense he will sign with the Toronto Blue Jays.
Turner and fellow ex-Red Sox J.D. Martinez round out the next tier of targets. Both players are coming off strong seasons and might demand a decent amount of money. However, given their ages, neither Turner nor Martinez will garner long-term commitments – presumably two years, at most.
With that said, Heyman believes the Red Sox will “seriously consider a less costly option,” such as Tommy Pham or Enrique Hernandez, both of whom were once teammates in Boston. Pham hit .234/.298/.374 with six homers over 53 games during the final stretch of the 2022 season. Hernandez was a defense-first contributor for the Red Sox in 2021, 2022, and part of 2023 before being traded to the Dodgers last summer.
Veteran Randal Grichuk represents one final target for Boston. The bat-first outfielder hit .267/.321/.459 with 16 homers and a 100 wRC+ with the Rockies and Angels last year.
The Red Sox certainly have their work cut out for them over the next few weeks. The roster still features several gaping holes with Spring Training starting next month.