The Dodgers’ Justin Turner is facing a dwindling free-agent market too

(Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
WPPROD

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — For all the talk of free-agent first baseman Edwin Encarnacion’s dwindling market, what about third baseman Justin Turner’s?

The Dodgers want to keep Turner. He wants to stay in Los Angeles. But it will be interesting to see how his lack of evident options influences the course of the negotiations.

The caveat is the same as it is with Encarnacion: We don’t know everything that is happening. Teams looking to upgrade at third are interested in Turner, sources say; other clubs might try to trade their incumbent third baseman to clear a spot.

But remember the prospect of the Giants competing with the Dodgers for Turner? It’s doubtful, considering that Eduardo Nunez can play third base and the Giants just signed free-agent closer Mark Melancon to a four-year, $62 million contract.

The Cardinals, because Turner received a qualifying offer, would need to sacrifice the No. 19 pick in the draft and trade Jhonny Peralta to clear third base.

The Braves, Brewers and Reds all hold protected picks, and all ranked in the bottom seven in OPS at third. But it’s difficult to imagine any of those clubs spending big on a third baseman while in various stages of rebuilding.

Barring a surprise — and let’s face it, free agency always is full of surprises — the best guess is that Turner will stay with the Dodgers on a good deal, but perhaps a lesser one than he envisioned.

BAUTISTA TO A BOTTOM-10 CLUB?

The surplus of sluggers on the trade and free-agent markets has turned free-agent outfielder Jose Bautista into something of a forgotten man.

Bautista, 36, rejected the Blue Jays’ qualifying offer, and teams almost certainly are reluctant to part with a first-rounder for an older player who is more of a DH and twice was on the disabled list last season.

Perhaps the Orioles would part with the 23rd choice or the Red Sox with the 26th if Bautista’s price dropped to a level those clubs deemed reasonable; the Orioles would get a sandwich pick back for Mark Trumbo. But a team with a protected pick might make more sense, considering it only would lose a second rounder.

The question is, which team?

The only four AL clubs in the bottom 10 are the Twins, Rays, Athletics and Angels. None is an obvious fit for Bautista. The A’s always could go rogue while professing to rebuild, but would Bautista even want to play in pitcher-friendly Oakland Coliseum?

Oh, Bautista will get a job — his .366 on-base percentage last season was in line with his career mark, and he hit 22 home runs in only 116 games. But he likely will need to be patient, and he might need to swallow his considerable pride.

FISH COULD PLAY WAITING GAME WITH JANSEN

One approach for the Marlins with free-agent closer Kenley Jansen might be to allow Aroldis Chapman to sign first, then come in at a lower number, according to a source with knowledge of the team’s plans.

Jansen figures to get less than Chapman, in large part because he is attached to a qualifying offer; Chapman was not eligible for a QO after getting traded in the middle of the season.

Waiting, though, comes with risks.

Chapman could receive such a huge guarantee that even the number below it would be too rich for the Marlins. And if he signs with the Yankees, as many in the industry expect, the Dodgers could be that much more motivated to retain Jansen, and the Nationals and other teams could jump in as well.

Then again, perhaps the Dodgers would prefer to trade for the Royals’ Wade Davis, who will earn $10 million in the final year of his contract, than invest heavily in a closer. Nationals GM Mike Rizzo, meanwhile, has a long history of pursuing Chapman, but might not be as enamored of Jansen.

As I reported Sunday, rival clubs believe the Marlins are willing to offer Jansen five years and $80 million and lose the No. 14 pick in the draft.

ROSS ON THE REBOUND

 

Free-agent right-hander Tyson Ross, recovering from thoracic-outlet surgery in October, likely will choose a team that excels at handling and rehabilitating pitchers.

Those teams include the Padres, who non-tendered Ross last Friday rather than risk paying him the salary that MLBTradeRumors.com projected for him in arbitration, $9.6 million.

Ross is said to be fond of Padres pitching coach Darren Balsley, so a return to San Diego is not out of the question. Still, a number of other teams also would make sense.

The Cubs, Indians, and Pirates are among the teams known for getting the most out of pitchers, while Derek Falvey, the Twins’ new chief baseball officer, was one of the masterminds of the Indians’ pitching success.

The Mariners — whose GM, Jerry Dipoto, is a former major-league pitcher — would be another possibility. So might the Giants, given their track record with pitching and the pitching-friendly dimensions of AT&T Park.

Ross, who turns 30 on April 22, might not be ready for Opening Day. But he represents an interesting upside play for teams in need of starting pitching.

AROUND THE HORN

• The Cardinals met Monday with the agents for free-agent center fielder Dexter Fowler and made him an initial offer, according to major-league sources.

The St. Louis interest in Fowler is no secret. The Blue Jays have made Fowler a four-year offer in the $60 million range, according to MLB Network’s Jon Heyman.

• Rival executives are surprised that the Rockies would even consider parting with the No. 11 overall pick for free-agent slugger Mark Trumbo, considering that other players are available at lower acquisition costs.

MLB.com’s Thomas Harding reported that the Rockies also are looking at losing the No. 11 pick for Encarnacion, and listed non-compensation free agents Chris Carter and Mitch Moreland and a trade for the White Sox’s Jose Abreu as other possibilities.

Perhaps the Rockies would be willing to sacrifice a first-rounder because their farm system is among the best in the game; MLB.com ranked it No. 4 before last season, Baseball America No. 6.

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