Passing on Todd Frazier, Dodgers show commitment to Justin Turner

NLDS GAME FOUR-LOS ANGELES DODGERS VS NEW YORK METS

By Jon Weisman

From the Dodgers’ perspective, today’s three-team trade with the Reds and White Sox was about picking up three 24-and-under players who have already had a taste of the Major Leagues.

But in an unmistakable way, it was also about a player who wasn’t part of the trade at all — Justin Turner.

It’s funny now to remember when the 2015 season began, Turner was still a utility reserve. After hitting an astonishing .340/.404/.493 in 2014, Turner certainly had a higher profile than your average backup. Nonetheless, Turner started only five games out of the Dodgers’ 21 in April, at four different positions. He had all of two starts at third base, where in essence, he was a third-stringer behind incumbent Juan Uribe and hot-hitting Alex Guerrero.

Starting at third base on April 19, Turner went 4 for 5 with three doubles. His next start at third base came May 1.

But it was in that month the changing of the guard began. It wasn’t night and day, but Turner’s playing time increased, particularly at third. In 61 plate appearances through May 25, Turner had a .426 on-base percentage and .600 slugging percentage, while Guerrero cooled off and Uribe all but froze, with five singles and two walks in only 30 plate appearances.

While Uribe’s slump wasn’t destined to be permanent, the bearded red-head had removed all doubt about his ability. Uribe was traded to Atlanta, to accommodate his desire to play, and free third base up for Turner.

Despite a trip to the disabled list in late July to solve a MRSA infection, Turner made 78 more starts in 2015, except now all but four of them were at third base (Three gave first baseman Adrian Gonzalez a rest.) Turner finished the regular season with a .370 on-base percentage and .491 slugging percentage, then went nuts in the National League Division Series, going 10 for 19 with a team-record six doubles — despite playing on a knee that would require offseason surgery.

LOS ANGELES DODGERS V NEW YORK METSSpeaking today about the trade, Andrew Friedman indicated that the Dodgers had extensive discussions about Reds third baseman Todd Frazier, who has hit 64 home runs the past two seasons but ultimately went to the White Sox. Why didn’t the Dodgers get Frazier?

Because they already had their third baseman.

“Todd’s obviously a really good Major League player, really good third baseman,” Friedman said. “We happen to think we’ve got a really good third baseman as well and really like Justin Turner.”

It’s not just that the Dodgers had a warm body in the hot corner. Though Frazier’s homer totals were higher in 2015, Turner surpassed him in adjusted OPS (138 to 117) and weighted runs created (141 to 114).

Frazier ranked higher defensively — in fact, according to Fangraphs, nearly half of his value this year was in his defense. But his defensive metrics have fluctuated throughout his big-league career. For the Dodgers, it didn’t make sense to start moving pieces around the diamond.

“With JT coming off knee surgery, we felt it was in everybody’s best interest to have him locked in at third,” Friedman said. “We actually talked about acquiring Todd and playing him at a different position, but just felt like there was a chance for that to be messy.”

Instead, the Dodgers locked in on the third baseman they had, the third baseman who practically came out of nowhere in 2014 and still had an uncertain role only seven months ago. Turner had established enough value that the Dodgers could make a move for prospects at three other positions, prospects who have already had their cups of coffee and could contribute in one way or another as soon as the coming season.

Justin Turner is not only a good guy, he’s the Dodgers’ guy, and it’s well-earned.

10 Comments

Giving Turner full faith and confidence for 3b this year is understandable although he is coming off knee surgery.. But moving Turner’s bat to 2b with Frazier at 3b would have made for a more intriguing IF than what the Dodgers have right now. I am still dumbstruck that $ 7 mil was committed to a 37 year old Utley who put up a weak 650 OPS in 150 PA’s with Dodgers. Maybe the feeling is that Turner wouldn’t be able to handle 2b coming off knee surgery. Or that Frazier’s second half collapse this year raised some red flags about his sustainability of production. But rotating Frazier, Turner and Utley in the IF would have given the Dodgers better offensive options than the current Turner-Utley duo which doesn’t look too impressive right now.

Friedman said they don’t think Turner is right for second base coming off knee surgery. It’s not maybe. It’s said above in the quotes.

Roger,

Once again I agree with your analysis. I struggle to understand how the FO moves are making us a better team for 2016. Instead their objective seems to be get cheaper. Their history of moves does not look impressive at all.

I guess I am a bit more sympathetic with the situation of the FO. They were brought in to reduce costs, win now and sustain competitiveness over the longer term. It’s a business. The owners spent $2 billion to acquire the team. I imagine that their projections had the Dodgers as one of the higher spending clubs, but the $340 million costs in 2015 (payroll plus luxury tax) surely needs to be reduced. Like most FOs they get some things right and some wrong (and hopefully the wrong moves are not such that the club is hamstrung moving forward). Their history surely includes some right moves (for example, not signing Hanley, finding a new home for Matty and signing Anderson).

That’s good news to me. Continuity! Yes “we had our 3B and we are happy with him”. Words I love to hear and read.

They sure do. But of course, nine of the ten years being evaluated and weighed are from the previous FO.

I don’t understand why you guys are jumping the gun in criticizing this front office. They simply haven’t been here long enough to fully implement whatever their long term strategy is. Plus, we don’t entirely know what their marching orders are from ownership – some writers just THINK they know.

I posted it somewhere else but I’ll repeat here: If the moves of yesterday contribute or set us up for a trade that results in the Dodgers getting a top flight, younger pitcher like Fernandez, Gray or Carrasco AND they do it all while their moves results in two division rivals having taken on nearly a half billion dollars in financial obligations? Well, then they’re playing chess while the other teams are playing checkers.

And even if we keep these guys? I’m VERY alright with it. I’d prefer winning it all this year, sure. But more than that I’d prefer contending for the World Series year after year for the next decade or two!

I’m with you, Dan. I think yesterday’s trade was an overall improvement. Obviously, we have to see what’s going to happen with the Chapman deal. It seemed at the Winter Meetings everyone was ready for a 2 week wait. So we just have to be patient and wait for those chips to fall.

Dan Estrada’s points are taken. Maybe Montas will become a trade chip like Heaney was last year. I’m sure this roster is far from set for 2016. But the overall strategy is a bit hard to figure. Greinke is getting $ 6.5 mil per WAR from the D-Backs based on his last two years, and the Dodgers were unwilling to go to that level yet the initial offer to Iwakuma basically was for $ 6.25 per WAR based on his last two years. And Iwakuma is turning 35 v. Greinke at 32. Not sure why the trade for Chapman was pursued after the Greinke loss as it seems the priority should have been to have used tradeable prospects for another starter. Then the Montas deal is a bit of a head scratcher as it seems like the Dodgers should be using prospect trades to get more certain major leaguers instead of trying to be more clever on guessing which minor leaguer (Montas or Peraza) will pan out better. KATOH says we got hosed as it has Peraza at 10.8 WAR through age 28 and Montas at only 4.4
I had high hopes for this FO a year ago,. and the brilliance of the Kemp deal seemed to bear that out. Yet, the Gordon deal did not. Anderson was an OK signing last year, but he’s no bargain at the $ 16 mil QO rate this year. Clearly McCarthy hasn’t worked out well either. This latest deal is a head scratcher too. The way I see it is that Friedman is in a bit of a slump right now and unless he gets out of it and soon the Dodgers 2016 may not be looking real encouraging.

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