Okay, so it may not be Shohei Ohtani, but the Toronto Blue Jays have finally found a DH: Per MLB Network’s Jon Morosi, Toronto has reached an agreement with former Mets, Dodgers and Red Sox slugger Justin Turner on a one-year, $13 million deal.
The team has yet to confirm the deal, but Morosi adds that it also includes a possible $1.5 million in bonuses should the 39-year-old stay healthy and productive this season.
Turner had been linked to Toronto for weeks now, and it’s not hard to understand why. With their pursuit of Shohei Ohtani falling agonizingly short and Brandon Belt hitting free agency, the Jays needed to add a DH — preferably one with the ability to moonlight at third base, should a reunion with Matt Chapman not be in the cards. Turner checks both of those boxes, and he’s coming off a season in which he hit a very solid .276/.345/.455 (114 OPS+) with 31 doubles, 23 homers and a career-high 96 RBI for the Boston Red Sox.
Turner may not bring the upside of some of the other corner/DH bats on the market like, say, Jorge Soler or J.D. Martinez. But both of those guys are likely holding out for richer deals that would’ve compromised Toronto’s flexibility to fill holes elsewhere, and neither have Turner’s defensive versatility. Turner spent most of his time as a designated hitter and first baseman in Boston, but he did make seven appearances at third and was playing the hot corner regularly as recently as 2022; sticking him there with regularity would be a mistake, but he can be an option in a pinch, and the Jays could use that flexibility given the question marks they have around their infield at the moment.
Plus, Turner remains among the most professional hitters around. Though we’re a bit removed from the man who was a downballot MVP candidate with the Dodgers, Turner has shown plenty of signs that he can continue to be a quality bat for at least one more year. He’s posted a combined .807 OPS (118 OPS+) over the last three seasons, and the underlying skills remain very much present: great command of the zone, tons of contact, tons of line drives and a strong batting average to go with 20 homers or so. There’s a chance that Turner’s numbers were inflated a bit by playing his home games at Fenway Park, among the friendliest in the game for righty hitters; his batting average was 35 points higher at home, his OPS 33 points higher. But he hit 11 road home runs compared to 12 in Fenway, and he hit more doubles on the road as well. He’s simply a solid hitter, one who shows no signs of falling off an age-related cliff as he nears his 40th birthday.
Toronto could still very well be in the market for another bat, although a big splash like Cody Bellinger no long appears to be in the cards. But after watching their offense disappear in last year’s postseason, a reliable veteran presence like Turner makes a lot of sense — especially considering his ample playoff experience (a .270/.370/.460 line in 86 career postseason games, including a 2017 NLCS MVP award). It’s hard to imagine the Jays regretting having Turner in the lineup on a daily basis, and that’s a good thing for a team that felt lacking in depth at times in 2023.