Trea Turner sweepstakes will have big impact on Dodgers’ offseason

LAS VEGAS – The Dodgers are in a familiar position at a familiar position.

For the second consecutive winter, the Dodgers’ incumbent shortstop is one of the most attractive free agents on the market, certain to sign one of the biggest contracts of the offseason.

A year ago, it was Corey Seager and he left the Dodgers for the Texas Rangers, signing a 10-year, $325 million contract.

This year, it is Trea Turner, Seager’s replacement at shortstop for the Dodgers in 2022 and a key to how their winter plays out now.

If the Dodgers throw a Seager-level contract at Turner and get him to re-sign, it will impact what else they can do this offseason (like how they rebuild their starting rotation). If Turner signs with another team, the Dodgers’ offseason needs would then include a new shortstop and some way to replace the 101 runs Turner scored and the 100 he drove in last season.

The Dodgers’ offseason could play out very differently based on which direction Turner goes and knowing that sooner rather than later would be best – but not likely.

“I mean, it’s certainly helpful but a lot of times in the offseason the order of operations doesn’t necessarily go in an ideal path,” Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said at the GM Meetings this week. “So we have to make bets and the timing, as I’ve talked about a lot, is definitely the trickiest part of the offseason. So we’re just trying to wrap our arms around it the best we can, appreciating that a week later it’s going to look different. A month later, things are going to look different and just try to keep navigating.”

Like Seager a year ago (when Marcus Semien, Javier Baez, Trevor Story and Carlos Correa were also free agents), Turner is not the only top-tier shortstop available this winter. Xander Bogaerts, Dansby Swanson and Correa are also free agents, giving the Dodgers options if they can’t re-sign Turner.

“Obviously we will have discussions with the other free agent shortstops as well while Trea is going out and exploring things on his end,” Friedman said.

Pursuing and signing Correa, however, would bring with it some baggage. Correa was on the Houston Astros when they beat the Dodgers in the 2017 World Series and were later revealed to be stealing signs. Correa engaged in a war of words through the press with Dodgers outfielder Cody Bellinger and came across as particularly unrepentant. He was also involved in an on-field incident with then-Dodgers reliever Joe Kelly in 2020.

Only a handful of players remain with the Dodgers from the 2017 team. But fans have certainly shown no interest in putting the scandal behind them.

Scott Boras, agent for both Correa and Bogaerts (as well as Bellinger), dismissed the idea that the Dodgers might be reluctant to sign Correa because of his Houston history.

“I don’t think anybody cares about something that occurred long ago and is now remedied,” Boras said. “Because their goal is they have to win. And it’s hard to win. You don’t let certain things get in the way in professional sports.

“I can go back and think of a lot of things historically that have occurred. Rivalries – Red Sox players playing for the Yankees, Yankees players playing for the Red Sox, Giants and Dodgers players moving to one another. That is all something that’s common in professional baseball. So I would expect that teams are always going to do what’s best for them that they feel will help them to be competitive.”

At 28, Correa is the youngest of the four free-agent shortstops this winter and might be the most talented of the group with one Gold Glove to his credit, a career OPS of .836 and an average of 28 home runs per year over his first eight big-league seasons.

GM Brandon Gomes said the Dodgers will first evaluate “the talent level” of each player then “what the contract will ultimately look like … and then layer on and sift through other factors” – like Correa’s Houston baggage and its possible impact on the Dodgers’ clubhouse.

Beyond the quartet of free agents, Friedman and Gomes indicated the team does “feel good” about Gavin Lux as an internal option to replace Turner at shortstop. Lux was a shortstop throughout his amateur career and for the first few years in the minors before the Dodgers moved him to second base with Seager at the major-league level.

“He filled in in ‘21 for a couple months stretch for Seager and he was good (defensively),” Friedman said. “He did it coming up (through the minors) and he was good. … His whole life, he’s been a shortstop. That’s more natural to him than second base.”

Additionally, the Dodgers could use Chris Taylor at shortstop and prospect Jacob Amaya “can certainly handle it defensively and his offense is developing.”

“There are a lot of options externally and we have good options internally,” Friedman said. “So we get to wade through that market and figure out what ultimately makes the most sense.”

Replacing Turner’s offensive contributions might be more difficult than simply replacing him at shortstop.

“Last year, in a lot of ways was a luxury – would we like to continue a luxury? Of course. That was an extra level above where it (the team’s offense) had been,” Friedman said. “We’ve had a lot of really good offenses over the last five to seven years and they’ve looked a little bit different at different points in time.”

Gomes said the Dodgers would not necessarily have to look outside for ways to replace Turner’s bat in the lineup. Lux had a breakthrough season in 2022. But still only hit .276 with a .745 OPS.

“Both CT and Muncy did not perform up to their capabilities (in 2022),” Gomes said. “I think having full offseasons for both of those guys, our expectation is they will be back to previous form. So that’s helpful right there as far as in-house options. Then we’ll go out and explore what other pieces look like to raise the offensive floor and build out depth.”

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