At just 29 years old, Trea Vance Turner looks poised to become the face of a franchise and a multi-millionaire many times over. The question is, who will be the lucky team to secure the shortstop’s services for the long term? It can, and should, be the Seattle Mariners.
A few weeks ago the Mariners were linked to Turner by Jim Bowden, who says the Mariners are among the teams that have checked in on his market. The young star has seen his stock rise quickly in recent years, due to his stellar performance for both the Washington Nationals and Los Angeles Dodgers. Turner has consistently shown that he is a true five-tool player who can run, hit for average, hit for power, and field the toughest position in baseball. He backed all of this up with a recent All-Star selection and Silver Slugger win in 2022 after finishing the season slashing a sizzling .298/.343/.466. Mark Feinsand of MLB.com calls Turner the “best of the bunch” in a loaded free-agent shortstop class. He’s gone even further to hype up his free agency by releasing a video narrated by Jon Hamm, hailing him as a generational talent. While the cost could be high, adding Turner would be a big step forward for any club.
One of the knocks on Turner over his career has been questions about the slender shortstop’s durability. Turner missed time in 2017, 2019, and 2021 with a variety of injuries, including playing through a fractured finger in 2021. However, this past year Turner led the league in at-bats and plate appearances with 160 games played, and with health has come production: the past two years have been the best stretch of his career, with him making back-to-back All-Star Games.
Another point against Turner is that he did receive a qualifying offer from the Dodgers, which means he would cost a draft pick. With that being said, the Mariners are now in win-now mode, and will receive an extra draft pick anyway thanks to Julio’s ROY campaign, so the consideration of a draft pick should be minimal.
There is also the slight issue of what to do with J.P. Crawford. Dipoto’s comments have emphasized that J.P. is the team’s shortstop, but it’s hard to see Turner making a move over to second. As far as their defense compares, they’re actually pretty even defensively after each had an uncharacteristic down year defensively. Crawford finished the year with 14 errors, a .972 fielding percentage, and -3 defensive runs saved across 144 games. Meanwhile, Turner finished the year with 16 errors, a .969 fielding percentage, and -1 defensive run saved across 160 games. Turner may have the slight edge, but he also has never won a Gold Glove, while J.P. did, and Turner has played over 90 games at second base in his career, including 49 games in 2021, where he tallied 5 errors, a .973 fielding percentage and 8 defensive runs saved. Perhaps, given Turner’s injury history, the Mariners could sell him on the idea of playing the less-demanding second base, it would be a tough sell, but it wouldn’t be impossible.
Being fully healthy in 2022 has also allowed him to demonstrate for us all the full Trea Turner experience. Beyond being a great contact hitter (85% contact on pitches in the zone), Turner has been developing his power and has used his speed to great effect, especially on the basepaths. In 2022 Turner put up a 90% stolen base percentage and tallied 27 nabbed bags with only three caught stealings on the year. Additionally, Turner also turned in a 42% extra bases taken percentage, which, if you think about it, is like stealing a base. The point is this guy is crazy fast and regularly puts himself in positions to score, a tool that could be very valuable for a Mariners team that ranked 14th in the AL in hits and 11th in the AL in total bases. While the Mariners did still rank 2nd in walks in the AL it seemed to me that all year they struggled to link hits together and bring guys around; a spark like Trea Turner at the top of the lineup could very well change that. Turner lead the league in batting average, hits and total bases in 2021, then finished top five in 2022 in hits and batting average and top 10 in total bases.
Turner has also shown flashes of his power at times. Most recently, in 2022 he saw increases in his line drive percentage, 22.7 % to 24.7%, and fly ball percentage, 24.4% to 26.2%, while seeing a decrease in his ground ball percentages from 45.5% to 43.5%. While these numbers may not look like big changes, it means Turner is succeeding in getting the ball in the air more, increasing his chances of getting it over a fence. With the coming changes to the shift, it could also lead to a big jump in hits, even as Turner has a history of spraying the ball around.
As evidenced by the chart above, Turner is a pull-heavy hitter, with most hits landing on the left side of the field. In particular, his home runs mainly fly out to left field. At only 331 feet to left field and only 378 to left center, T-Mobile park has remained extremely friendly to righties since they moved the fences in back in 2013. If he were to sign with the Mariners, Turner could see a big jump in his power numbers and hitting were he to play in a ballpark that so well fits his hitting style.
The Astros are continuing to upgrade, recently signing their own Silver Slugger and COVID season MVP winner in José Abreu. The Rangers already poured the GNP of a small country into their middle infield. The Mariners need to continue upgrading to keep pace in the AL West. Despite the cost of a draft pick and the possibility of a position conflict, and questions about his long term durability, Trea Turner’s unique speed, elite bat, and positional versatility make him a must-have for any team this offseason, and the Mariners should most definitely be the first in line to try to sign him. It could be the crucial move that puts the Mariners over the top moving forward.