Mariners Free Agent Target: Signing Justin Turner Could Be Just Right

How much would a dependable veteran bat help a young Mariners squad return to the postseason in 2024? Justin Turner could fit that mold for Seattle
Tampa Bay Rays v Boston Red Sox
Tampa Bay Rays v Boston Red Sox / Maddie Malhotra/Boston Red Sox/GettyImages

If you had to describe Justin Turner in one word, it would be consistent. Over the past ten years, he's averaged a .857 OPS and an OPS+ of 131, making him a recurring offensive threat. He spent all but one of those years with the Los Angeles Dodgers, starting off as a utility infielder before settling down at the hot corner. He elected free agency after a productive year in Boston that saw him slash .276/.345/.455 over 626 plate appearances.

His most valuable characteristic is his excellent plate discipline. His chase rate (25.7%, 71st percentile), whiff rate (17.5%, 91st percentile), and strikeout rate (17.6%, 77th percentile) were good enough to satisfy even the most traditional baseball fan. Furthermore, his power allowed him to cobble together 23 home runs and 31 doubles, helping him accumulate a run value of 21 and placing him in the 86th percentile of qualified players.

He's also great against left-handed pitching. Over 164 plate appearances, Turner slashed .285/.372/.528 against lefties. When compared to the league-average performance, his OPS was 42% better. The Mariners were slightly below average when it came to hitting against left-handed pitchers, posting a .730 OPS and placing 17th in MLB.

However, like everything in life, he comes with his downsides. First and foremost, he'll be 39 years old by the time the first pitch of the 2024 season is thrown. This will limit him to a one, maybe two-year deal and will undoubtedly relegate him to a pure DH role. He did field a little in Boston, mostly serving as a first baseman but also making a few appearances at second and third base, but his defensive capabilities have become more and more limited with age.

Second of all, he might be a little pricier than the Seattle front office is willing to pay. MLBTradeRumors is currently estimating Turner to receive a one-year, $16 million deal which is quite the exorbitant amount when compared to the rest of the Mariners' payroll. Assuming they sign a deal in this ballpark, it would make him the third-highest paid player on the team behind just Luis Castillo ($24.15 million) and Robbie Ray ($23.0 million). Current DH Mike Ford is arbitration eligible and with an estimated price tag of just $1 million, he might be the "Justin Turner at home."

On the bright side, the Mariners are still in desperate need of a regular DH. Despite Mike Ford's efforts, Seatle DHs posted a measly .688 OPS, placing them 25th in MLB and below other very competitive teams like the Oakland Athletics (.700) and Kansas City Royals (.718). Ford himself saw a drastic regression after the All-Star break and went from a .944 OPS in the first half to a .709 OPS in the second half.

Additionally, the Mariners might be able to keep payroll a little lower by signing Turner to a larger, longer deal with a lower AAV, so something like a two-year, $25 million contract might be a more enticing option. Especially given that Turner hasn't quite shown signs of slowing down and depends more on good hitting fundamentals than youthful athleticism for his success, age might not be as much of a concern as it would be for other players. In fact, his experience might be a bonus, as the Mariners currently have the eighth youngest team in MLB by average age (27.6 years old) and he could be an impactful locker room presence.

Justin Turner is not Shohei Ohtani but there's definitely value to be had in a potential contract. If the Mariners do end up signing him at all, it would at at the very least serve as an opportunity to hold out until more of their gifted prospects are ready for the big show or a more robust free agent class in 2025.