Justin Turner wanted to re-sign with Dodgers before the plan quickly changed
In the weeks following his signing with the Boston Red Sox last month, Justin Turner started receiving presumptuous pieces of mail to his Southland home.
“We had like six or seven letters in our mailbox from realtors saying, ‘Hey, we want to sell your house,’” Turner recalled with a laugh. “It was like, whoa, no one said we are boxing up and leaving.”
But after an awkward end to his memorable nine-year tenure with the Dodgers this winter, the Southern California native still was adjusting to the fact Los Angeles is no longer his professional home.
“It’s still fairly fresh,” Turner said during a charity event Sunday, his first public appearance in L.A. since finalizing his two-year, $22-million contract with the Red Sox.
“You hear that from a lot of guys, how tough free agency is,” he added. “I think everyone has this picture in their mind of what they want or how they think it is gonna go. It just never really goes according to plan.”
Indeed, staying with the Dodgers had been Plan A for Turner entering the offseason.
Even though the club declined his $16-million option for 2023, the 38-year-old publicly stated his desire to work out a new deal. Having twice negotiated free-agent contracts to remain with the team, he held out hope the sides could hammer out another reunion.
That possibility faded during a two-day stretch before the holidays.
After failing to bridge the gap with Turner, who was seeking multiyear offers after batting .278 with 13 home runs and 81 RBIs last season, the Dodgers instead signed J.D. Martinez to a one-year, $10-million contract on Dec. 17 — effectively finding a cheaper option to replace Turner's veteran right-handed bat in a predominantly designated hitting role.
The next afternoon, news broke that Turner and the Red Sox — Martinez’s old team — agreed to their two-year pact, which includes a player option for 2024.
For Turner, the following month has been full of conflicting emotions.
He's eager for his opportunity in Boston, where he was recruited by other former Dodgers (Kiké Hernández chief among them) as well as New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick, who texted Turner to extol Boston’s culture as a sports town.
Turner also is happy to be with another storied franchise and joked during an introductory press conference this month that he’s looking forward to seeing would-be fly outs turn into doubles off the Green Monster in Fenway Park.
“I’m just excited to be part of their organization,” Turner reiterated Sunday.
At the same time, Turner still seemed to be digesting his departure from the Dodgers. He struck a diplomatic tone while discussing his negotiations with the team.
“I don’t think anything’s gonna take away from the nine years that I had in L.A. as a Dodger,” he said. “It was an absolutely incredible ride.”
Still, he deflected when pressed further on whether he was surprised he and the club couldn’t reach a new agreement.
“I don’t think it does anyone any good to go back and speculate as to what happened,” he said. “I don’t want anything to blow back or taint the last nine years that I had and everything we accomplished.”
He later added: “I’d rather celebrate the nine years than talk about maybe what could have been or should have been or didn’t happen.”
Turner spoke Sunday from the Dream Center in Echo Park, where the foundation he started with his wife, Kourtney, was hosting a fundraiser to celebrate “Justin Turner Day” — which the Los Angeles City Council recognized as Jan. 22 in 2019 to honor Turner’s work in the community.
Though Turner is no longer a member of the organization, Dodgers fans still made up the vast majority of the more than 1,000 people who were expected to be in attendance.
Many wore blue shirts and No. 10 jerseys (there was at least one Red Sox hat in the crowd, though it was donned by a woman also wearing one of Turner’s Dodgers uniforms). Dozens lined up for autographs, photos and a chance to thank the team’s longtime third baseman.
And even as Turner prepared to begin a new chapter, they still treated the red-haired Lakewood native like a franchise icon.
“This is a good way to put a bow tie on everything,” Turner said, gazing out at the crowd, “and say thank you to L.A. one last time.”
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.