In an apparent game musical sluggers, beloved longtime Dodger Justin Turner is leaving for Boston as Red Sox powerhouse J.D. Martinez comes to L.A.
After a nine-year tenure that saw him bloom from erratic hitter to magic man, Turner, two-time All Star and 2020 World Series winner, is reportedly signed a $22 million contract with the Red Sox, with an opt out after 2023, per today’s Los Angeles Times. The news comes on the heels of this weekend’s reports that Martinez signed a one-year, $10 million deal with the Dodgers as a designated hitter.
Turner is clearly the most painful in a series of offseason Dodgers defections, including Trea Turner, Cody Bellinger, Tyler Anderson, and several others from the dominating line-up that won 111 games before disappointing at the play-offs. And until recently, it seemed as if he might be staying.
While they declined his $16 million option, Dodgers management spoke of wanting to hang onto Turner, who also said he hoped to finish his career with L.A. Last month, president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman told the Orange County Register, “The priority is that we show up in Glendale and for him to be a part of what we’re doing next year. What exactly that looks like, we need time to work through.”
In a November interview with KLAC-AM, Martin indicated that luxury tax was among the barriers to negotiations with the team.
Not only are Martinez, 35, and Turner, 38, both designated hitters with comparable season records, but both are also late bloomers: middling hitters turned powerhouses after each one rebuilt his swing with off-season hitting coaching.
In 2013, it was hitting coach Doug Latta who helped remake Turner’s swing, turning a utility infielder just dropped by the Mets into an All-Star and postseason Dodgers powerhouse. That same year, 2013, J.D. Martinez, revamped his swing with the help of Robert Van Scoyoc, setting him a path to beat the Dodgers in 2018’s World Series. As befits a strange Dodgers-Red Sox symbiosis, Van Scoyoc now plies his trade with the Dodgers.
Turner will be a good addition for any club, a great teammate by all accounts and an L.A. fan favorite. Martinez too is hard to argue with, a more than solid batter who fills a big hole in the Dodgers’ roster. Purely in terms of strategy, vibe, and impact, the swap may not make a ton of sense. But after signing a series of veterans to one-year contracts, the Dodgers’ luxury tax payroll was estimated near $210 million, edging them ever closer to the $233 threshold. The one place where Martinez clearly trumps Turner: a much lower price tag.
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