Should the New York Mets Reunite with Justin Turner?

On November 6th, 2020, when Steve Cohen’s $2.4 billion purchase of the New York Mets became official, a new offseason started–one that had fans realistically dreaming of top-end free agent talents like George Springer, J.T. Realmuto, and Trevor Bauer. For the first time in forever, taking on all these contracts seemed possible.

Behind all this fanfare and extravagance, however, lies another class of free agents. They may not turn as many heads as those other names but could still help out the “restructuring” process. There is one name that especially jumps out. This player would not only fill a need for the Mets but also already has experience playing in orange and blue. 

I’m talking about the 2020 World Series Champion, Justin Turner

Turner’s four-year stint with the Mets from 2010-2013 wasn’t the best, as he slashed .265/.326/.370. Compare that with his seven-year tenure (2014-2020) with the Dodgers, where he posted .302/.382/.503. Granted, he played three more years with the Dodgers but it’s still an important increase to note. Turner spent most of those seven seasons in his thirties and is currently 36 years old. 

Why would the New York Mets consider a 36-year old third baseman who may or may not have his best seasons behind him? Should the New York Mets reunite with Justin Turner?  

The Case For Justin Turner to the Mets

Third base is one of the Mets’ needs heading into this season but it’s not as glaring of a need as their bullpen, center field and starting rotation are. Last season, there wasn’t one, sole third baseman as the hot corner was shared between a group of players. However, J.D. Davis received the most reps there, playing 34 games at that position (not including late-game defensive substitutions). 

In 2020 he batted .247/.372/.389 which are steps down from his 2019 numbers where he played a full season: .307/.369/.527. That year, however, most of his appearances came in left field. 

On the defensive end, he had a .951 fielding percentage in 2020 while only committing four errors. Including his time at the Houston Astros, Davis has played a total of 110 games at the hot corner. During his career, he has a .953 fielding average.  

It’s difficult to make a direct comparison between Turner and Davis because Davis is nine years younger and has much less experience at third base. Nevertheless, in 754 games at third base, Turner has a .966 fielding percentage. This means that Turner beats out Davis on both offense and defense. 

During the 2020 season, Jeff McNeil, Andres Gimenez, Luis Guillorme, and Todd Frazier all took turns at the hot corner, with Frazier and Gimenez getting the most time aside from Davis. Unfortunately, neither of those players will be with the Mets in 2021, with Gimenez being a piece of the Francisco Lindor trade and Frazier being a free agent. Additionally, with Robinson Cano suspended for the 2021 season, McNeil should be getting most of the reps at second base with Guillorme on the bench. 

The Case Against Justin Turner To The Mets

So if Justin Turner is arguably a much better player than Davis, why don’t the Mets pull the trigger? For one, age is a big factor. Turner just turned 36 and even though his defense has been great (check this play from the NLCS last year), Father Time will always win. Davis is not only much younger, but he also has done a fine enough job where the Mets aren’t forced to stop playing him there. Besides, Davis is under team control through 2024

 With Davis’ effectiveness at third base, the Mets might be better off spending their time and money improving other areas. One of these areas is center field. While Brandon Nimmo has been solid for the Mets while slashing .257/.397/.465 over the past three seasons, his defense can be improved on and the Mets have been exploring other options. Even though the Blue Jays just signed George Springer, the Mets have other options like Jackie Bradley Jr., Kevin Pillar, and a miniature reunion with Jake Marisnick

Trevor Bauer is still a FA so the Mets could sign him to create a dominant rotation. Having acquired Carlos Carrasco in the Lindor trade, signing Bauer would give the Mets a rotation of Jacob DeGrom, Bauer, Carrasco, Marcus Stroman, and youngster David Peterson. Noah Syndergaard, recovering from Tommy John surgery, is set to return in June. 

If the Mets do decide that it’s third base they want to improve on, there are other options for them. Rumors have been swirling that Kris Bryant, who just turned 29, is available via trade. Despite thinning themselves out with the Lindor trade, the Mets could include J.D. Davis and another player or two. Bryant is a World Series Champion and former MVP who would bring experience at the plate and in the field, despite a 2020 season riddled with injuries. 

Should The Mets Go For Turner?

In the end, while Justin Turner would be a great, welcome addition to the Mets, I think J.D. Davis is capable of handling the hot corner by himself. He has plenty of experience there already, has done well at the plate and in the field, and is younger than the available alternatives. Additionally, by keeping their in-house option, the Mets would save time and money. 

“The Prodigal Son Returns” would make a great headline for a New York Mets-Justin Turner reunion, but at this point, the Mets would be better off spending their time and resources elsewhere. 

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