As of right now, the Washington Nationals are about $16 million under the Competitive Balance Tax threshold and it looks like the team we have today will likely be the roster going into Opening Day. With that being said, there is still one big beard out there that would really be the finishing touch on a great offseason.
Most experts are grading Mike Rizzo’s job this offseason as a solid B+, but there is no doubt that adding Justin Turner would really make this an A+ offseason.
Turner is 36 years old and reportedly seeking a four-year contract from potential suitors. At this point, teams have shied away from that demand and it seems unlikely he’ll get a deal for that length. The most likely outcome is that he ends up with a three-year deal and possibly a mutual option for a fourth. Turner would certainly make the Nationals much better. Their lineup 1-4 is scary as is, but adding a veteran hitter like Turner makes it even scarier.
Since joining the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2014, Turner has produced an impressive .302/.382/.503 slash line and many fans think this is exactly the type of bat that Washington needs to truly compete in the NL East. Personally, I agree that Turner would fit perfectly with the Nationals. His hitting prowess would make him an excellent fit batting second behind Trea Turner, especially since his batting splits against lefties and righties are nearly the same. But there are plenty of hurdles to get over for this acquisition to become a reality.
First of all, the Nationals rarely ever go into Opening Day with a payroll over the CBT threshold as Rizzo and company like to have some financial flexibility for in-season trades. Adding Turner would certainly put this team very close to the threshold or possibly even over it. That money issue alone likely puts an end to this idea, but there are even more concerns that will likely have Justin Turner landing back in LA. Reports suggest that for a team to pry Turner away from LA they would have to overpay. In this case, that means guaranteeing a four-year deal to a player who would end up being 40 years old at the end of it.
This move would also mean the team is effectively giving up on Carter Kieboom. Kieboom has yet to show much at the big league level, but we all know Rizzo is not one to give up on position prospects early and I doubt Kieboom will be any different. Finally, handing out a four-year deal will seemingly go against the plan. This team has gotten much better this offseason by taking advantage of the current market realities.
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The Nationals have handed out one year deals to players like Kyle Schwarber and Brad Hand who likely would have received larger deals if it was a different year. Josh Bell is the other big addition this offseason and he is still arbitration eligible. These moves keep them financially flexible heading into next year, where the free agent market is much better. Also, Soto and Turner will be a year closer to testing the market and no one really knows what the new collective bargaining agreement will look like.
Teams with financial flexibility will be better prepared to attack a brand new landscape once an agreement is made.
Yes, Justin Turner makes all the sense in the world from an on field perspective in 2021, but on February 10th this move remains highly unlikely. The Nationals are in the top three of the NL East in most 2021 projections and the differences between the three are negligible. With or without Justin Turner, the upcoming season is shaping up to be a dogfight in the East.
Edited by: Jonathan Mailloux