Everyone’s been focusing on the Cardinals’ outfield needs. But here’s my case for why they should pursue an infield veteran, just coming into his own.
This past week, in an article featured on the KSDK sports page, my colleague, Joe Dattoli, wrote about how the Cardinals should pursue Josh Roddick this offseason. Well, in this article, I would like to make the argument for pursuing another unrestricted free agent coming out of the Dodgers’ organization: Justin Turner.
Now, the shock factor brought with this argument is perhaps less than that with Joe’s argument for Reddick. While Reddick has flown somewhat under the radar the last few years, being stuck out in Oakland until his move to Los Angeles, where he still was not necessarily a marquee name, Justin Turner is well known to be one of the leagues better third basemen. Coming off of by far his best career season as the Dodgers’ most productive hitter in 2016, Turner provides a great middle-of the lineup, veteran power bat, something the Cardinals could definitely use to provide protection to young stars Stephen Piscotty and Randal Grichuk, now with the loss of Matt Holliday.
Before coming to St. Louis, and finding the Cardinals, I grew up as a Mets fan, and they will always hold a special place in my heart. Therefore, when Justin Turner left for Los Angeles with a career 8 home runs in four years a a New York bench player, I had to keep half an eye on his ascension in to near stardom these past few years. This process started when, in 2014, Turner hit .340, yes, .340, in a then career high 288 at-bats. The shock only increased as I watched, in increasing periphery, as his home run totals rose from 7, to 16, to 27, and his RBI totals from 43, to 60, to 90 in 2016.
So I started to watch his swing. I am not going to go through a full analysis go Turner’s swing here, as I did with Randal Grichuk in the beginning of the season, but I will give a major point that has changed over the course of the last 4+ years, allowing him to become a borderline-elite power threat.
Although he did it on some swings with the Mets (his big hits, not surprisingly), for the most part, compared to his years in LA, Turner can be seen cutting his swing off early a high percentage of the time while wearing the New York uniform, rolling over at, or just after, the point of contact, thus shortening the time his bat is in the plane of the pitch, and depressing his potential to make hard, solid, contact.
In contrast, his swing with LA, especially this past year, has a very exaggerated, one-handed finish, which, for Turner, allows him to ensure his bat stays in plane as long as possible. If I had to guess, I would say the hitting coach Mark McGwire had something to do with this change, an adjustment which helped lead Turner to some elite years in LA.
— NBC Sports (@NBCSports) November 14, 2016
How can he help?
So, what would he do for the Cardinals? Well, as I said, Turner has proved himself to be a middle of the lineup force, something the Cardinals certainly need at this point. As well, Turner’s defense is above average, and, at points, sparkling down at the hot corner.
The Cardinals are in need of an everyday third baseman, shifting 6 players in and out of that position last year, the third most of any position for them. As well, having Turner set at third would allow Carpenter to stay put at first, something the club has stated as their intention.
Johnny Peralta, entering his age 35 season, in my opinion, would be better served as a utility player, who can fit in at third, short, and first. Is he serviceable at third base, and in the middle of the lineup, where he currently stands? Yes, he is serviceable. But there’s a reason there was so much shifting around at that position last year, and there’s no denying he is getting up their in age, and down there in athleticism and production value.
In only 82 games in 2016, Peralta hit an adequate .260, with just 8 homers and 29 RBI. Entering the last year of his contract, Peralta will be making only $10 million in 2017, the least of any year of his contract, so the Cardinals aren’t under huge monetary pressure to give him starter’s innings.
And after that, he will be an unrestricted free agent, going into his age 36 season, and of the Cardinals decide to re-sign him, I wouldn’t count it as a terrible decision, but also I, personally, wouldn’t be chomping at the bit for him to come back to St. Louis.
Can this happen?
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, is the question of how difficult it will be to actually obtain Justin Turner. Despite turning down the Dodgers’ qualifying offer of $17.2 million, I would be surprised if Turner, at age 32 and only 2 or 3 years of production under his belt, got much more than that per year, on a multi-year contract. My prediction, as well as those of some other baseball news sites, such as mlbtraderumors.com, put Turner at a 4-5 year contract, earning $17M/yr.
Now, that is a manageable contract for the Cardinals, especially with the departure of Matt Holliday and his $120 million contract. However, the question is, what will Turner do? Many sources I’ve seen, and agree with, say that the boy out of Long Beach, California, will indeed return to his hometown team, and that his declining the qualifying offer was just a ploy to start a bidding war.
However, this could be wrong, and for all we know, Turner could want a change of pace, a change of scenery. And St. Louis could be just the place to give it to him. Either way, I truly believe John Mozeliak, Mike Matheny, and Cardinal national, should try and get Justin to come here to the Midwest.