Pros and Cons: Should Yankees sign Trea Turner?

Trea Turner
Trea Turner / USA TODAY Sports/SNY Treated Image

Trea Turner is the author of perhaps the smoothest slides in the major leagues. If you don’t know, Google “Trea Turner slide” and prepare to be amazed at his stylings.

How about Turner pulling off the free agent version of one of those graceful slides this winter and popping up in the Bronx? Hey, if Aaron Judge goes elsewhere, the Yankees will need marquee offense and Turner certainly supplies that.

But signing Turner also would blow up a bit of roster construction strategy the Yankees have been loyal to since last winter – avoiding the shortstop market, no matter how good the talent there is. Turner is one of several in another mega-class of shortstops that also includes Carlos Correa, Xander Bogaerts and Dansby Swanson and dominates the top tier of the free agent market.

Would the Yankees re-sign Judge and bring in Turner? Pricey, but if the club’s brass feels even one-tenth of the frustration the fan base does, it’s worth considering. If Judge goes, the chances they’d be in on the former Los Angeles Dodgers star would have to soar, right?

Let’s look at the pros and cons of putting Turner in pinstripes:

CONS

The Yankee hype machine is turned up to 11 on shortstop prospects Oswald Peraza and Anthony Volpe. Probably with good reason, though in reality the two are just good prospects until they prove they can thrive in the major leagues.

The Yankees did not bite last winter when Correa, Corey Seager and Marcus Semien were among the options at short and obtained Isiah Kiner-Falefa as a stopgap instead. They just agreed on a $6 million contract with IKF for 2023, though we don’t yet know whether that’s to be the starter at short, a utility player, or a fail-safe if the kids flounder.

But signing Turner, 29, obviously would block both Peraza, who was impressive in his brief MLB debut last year and probably should’ve gotten more playing time over IKF, and Volpe.

Maybe the Yanks should sit out the Turner market just to force themselves to actually give Peraza and Volpe a real shot at the job, whether it’s in April or a few months into the season. Other teams have leaned on young players and it’s worked. Just ask the Atlanta Braves.

And while Turner is a superlative player, he did have a so-so defensive year in 2022, making a career-worst 16 errors. He was tied for 20th among shortstops in defensive runs saved and the Yankees have emphasized defense recently, upgrading their glovework significantly last season. There’s not much to nitpick in Turner’s game, though.

Trea Turner
Trea Turner / Kirby Lee - USA TODAY Sports

PROS

If you recall, the Yankees had some trouble getting hits in the playoffs. Over the past three seasons, Turner was first, first and second in the National League in hits. Batting average isn’t the sexiest stat around, but Turner has a .302 lifetime mark and the Yankees are seeking players who can put the ball in play and make things happen, which would complement their slugging prowess.

And Turner can generate offense with his legs, too. He was the fifth-fastest player in baseball this year via average sprint speed and he’s an expert base stealer. He led the NL with 32 swipes in 2021 and stole 27 bases in 30 tries in 2022, good for fourth. Maybe next year’s bigger bases increase Turner’s totals and boost his value further.

Just because he’s speedy does not mean Turner is simply a slap-and-run type. He hit 28 homers in 2021 and 21 last year while also driving in 100 runs for the first time in his career. In addition, he had a career-best 39 doubles last season.

There’s been reporting that Turner prefers to play on the East Coast – he was born in Florida, went to college at North Carolina State and came up with the Washington Nationals. The Yankees could use some star power if Judge departs and maybe Turner’s game of hits, slugging and speed holds some Bronx appeal. It should be appealing even if Judge stays.

VERDICT

Maybe the Yankees trade Gleyber Torres for pitching and use the kids to figure out second base, opening up shortstop for Turner. Perhaps Turner plays there for a year or two and then switches positions – he’s athletic enough for any spot on the diamond, including center field if Harrison Bader isn’t a long-term Yankee – and Peraza and/or Volpe take over shortstop then.

Ultimately, Turner could command a $300 million deal. Judge will be expensive after hitting 62 homers and the Yanks already have big-money deals on the books in Giancarlo Stanton and Gerrit Cole. Even the Yankees’ fat wallet might not be flush enough for another massive contract.

That, plus IKF’s deal and inexpensive choices in Peraza and Volpe, makes Turner a longshot to be the Yankee shortstop, especially if Judge sticks around. It’s fun to think about, though.