New York Yankees could eye Justin Turner in free agency

This post was originally published on Outside Pitch MLB

It was only two seasons ago when the New York Yankees believed they found their third baseman of the foreseeable future. After making his way to the Bronx after an in-season trade, Chase Headley did enough to impress team brass and earn a four-year, $52 million deal.

Some believed the contract was too steep, as Headley was never able to replicate his MVP-like 2011 campaign and was on the wrong side of 30. Others, however, looked at his strong defense, switch-hitting ability and change of scenery from the spacious NL West ballparks to the smaller parameters of the American League East stadiums as a reason for hope.

Unfortunately, Headley has yet to justify the contract.

Throughout his 354 games in pinstripes, the third baseman has slashed a sub-par .256/.333/.379 with just 31 home runs and 130 runs batted in — which happen to be the same home run total and 15 more RBI than he had in the aforementioned 2011 season.

While Headley hasn’t been terrible, he hasn’t been good — and there’s nothing worse in Major League Baseball than being average.

It what shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone, the Yankees have begun to test the waters for a possible change at the hot corner. Not only did General Manager Brian Cashman say that he’s willing to talk about all players in trades, but there have also been some rumblings about the organization’s willingness to eat a good portion of Headley’s contract just to move him.

If (and it’s a big if, as he still has two years and $26 million left on his deal) Headley is indeed traded, the Yankees will be in the market for a new third baseman.

And they should look no further than Justin Turner of the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Turner has experience in both the AL East and in New York, as he began his career with the Baltimore Orioles and started to come into his own with the New York Mets. But it was his time with the Dodgers that made him one of the most underrated talents in the game.

When taking a peek at the average column, some would say Turner is on a steady decline. He started his career in Chavez Ravine by hitting an eye-popping .340 and followed that up by batting .294 in 2015. This season, Turner took another step back but still hit a strong .275 while spending most of the season in the heart of the lineup.

But while his average has taken a dip, Turner has improved in nearly every other offensive category.

He set career highs across the board, including games played (151), home runs (27), RBI (90), doubles (34), runs scored (79), walks (48) and slugging percentage (.493). In addition to Turner’s added power numbers while maintaining a relatively low strikeout rate, he’s also regarded as one of the better defensive third basemen that baseball has to offer. Couple that with the fact that he’s versatile (he’s played first base, second base, shortstop and left field) and is a tremendous clubhouse presence, and it should be a no-brainer to add him.

But as is in most instances, there is some bad that comes with the good.

Set to be 32 on Opening Day of 2017, Turner doesn’t appear to be an ideal fit for a Yankees team that is in the midst of a youth movement. And don’t forget, he also went through microfracture knee surgery, one that hindered his stats in the beginning of the season and could linger on as the years go by. In addition, not only will there be plenty of suitors for Tuner’s services, but he’s also eligible for the qualifying offer, a number that will amass $17 million for one year of work.

So what should the Yankees do? Should they take a chance on Turner or should they continue to add youth?

First, you must factor in the price. The front office shouldn’t (and by all accounts wouldn’t) exceed a four-year deal for anyone over the age of 30. If the Yankees would be able to offer him three or four years for around $17 million per season, they should sign on the dotted line.

Now let’s say Headley is indeed traded; where does Turner fit in? Naturally, he would take over at third base. Miguel Andujar, the Yankees seventh-rated prospect, is still two years away from the Bronx. Turner can keep the position warm and eventually move into the DH role, a current need for the Yankees.

In the end, it’s quite possible that the Turner receives a massive — and well deserved – free agent deal from a team that believes they’re a third baseman away from a World Series.

But the Yankees desperately need a power bat in the heart of their lineup, and Turner, along with his intangibles, looks to be a perfect fit for the pinstripes.

If Cashman can work his magic — and if Turner is willing to trim his hair and shave his beard – the third baseman could trade Hollywood for the bright lights of Manhattan.

Dan Federico is a writer for The Bronx Chronicle. You can follow and interact with him on Twitter or contact him via email here

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