MLB Qualifying Offers: The Not So Curious Case of Justin Turner

Justin Turner has become the poster boy for all the reasons why the MLB Players Association doesn’t like the qualifying offer system anymore. The Dodgers like it, though, and that’s why they they offered Turner a one-year contract with a value of $17.2 million. Meanwhile, Turner and his agent sit near a phone that may never ring with a serious offer for his services.

Justin Turner just completed the year of his life as a ball player for the NL West Division-winning Los Angeles Dodgers. He hit for power that no one had ever seen before with 27 home runs and 90 RBI and he was looking forward to finally reaching the status of free agency with the chance to cash in and secure his family’s future.

The Trouble with Being Justin Turner 

But the trouble was that his future wasn’t exactly in his own hands yet. Because his team had one more card to play before he could become a truly free man. And sure enough, the Dodgers played it by extending Turner a qualifying offer, meaning he had a choice to make and he didn’t have a lot of time to think it over. His choice on the surface was a simple either/or choice. Either accept the offer that guaranteed the $17 million or reject it and take your chances in the open market for a multi-year deal (who said there’s no gambling in baseball?).

Turner opted to reject the Dodgers’ offer. While not in the very top tier of this year’s free agent crop, Turner has all those new little stats that general managers fall asleep with these days (get a full gulp of them here) and generally gets good grades except for when it comes to crunch time and you reach the conclusion part of his profile like this one from Fangraphs:

“Even here, Turner looks to provide good value on an expected contract. That could make him a bargain this winter, but Turner’s unusual career and lower amount of playing time does add some risk. Players don’t play as well into their 30s, and whoever ends up with Turner is going to end up with some down seasons. If he can avoid a big dropoff, he will be a steal for whichever team that signs him, but there’s some precedent for a scenario in which his production falls well short of the money he’d receive from a potential contract.”

Turner is also not aided by the fact that any team that signs him now must surrender their first round draft pick next year to the Dodgers. In this scenario, Turner probably loses in the same way that Jeremy Hellickson backed off from free agency when teams were essentially telling him, “You’re good, Jeremy, and we want you. But I’m afraid you’re not good enough to give up a first round draft pick.” Turner now finds himself in the same predicament, caught between the proverbial rock and a hard place.

Justin Turner: The Players Association Poster Boy

And that’s why the Players Association is making the qualifying offer a centerpiece in their ongoing negotiations with the owners. The players would like to trash it altogether, but that’s a non-starter for the owners. So the players are now on Plan B which would be to modify the draft pick thing.

For Justin Turner, though, he’s caught in a box he probably can’t escape from this year. Although there is one report I located that indicates the Angels may be nibbling. On the other hand, you can’t really garner much sympathy for a man who sneezed at $17 million. Because no matter how this turns out, Justin Turner will be able to live comfortably for the rest of his life. And we should all be so fortunate.

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