Spring Training has just started and for front offices across baseball, that means extension season. It is the sweet spot during the baseball calendar where players and management are around each other everyday, but don’t have to focus on winning games and division standings. Once the regular season starts, many players won’t even risk the distraction of negotiating new deals. The Nationals are not too far removed from the Stephen Strasburg extension that was signed on May 9th, 2016. The groundwork for that extension was laid two months earlier during Spring Training.
Going even further back, Ryan Zimmerman’s 2012 contract extension was completed in February. That is two faces of the Washington franchise and the 2019 World Series Championship team, who both happened to sign extensions around Spring Training. Could Trea Turner be next in line?
Obviously, there is a bigger extension fans would like to talk about, but Juan Soto and extensions won’t be a discussion any time soon with Scott Boras steering his ship. On the other hand, Trea Turner has told the Washington Post that he wants to be here, stating that he hopes he is the “position player they invest in.” Quite frankly, Turner deserves it. He was a huge part of our World Series winning team and he played with a broken right index finger, famously batting with only nine fingers throughout the championship run.
Trea Turner’s Stats
The 27-year-old shortstop has not posted a season with an fWAR below 2.5 since 2016 and has only had an fWAR below 3 during an injury-shortened 2017 season. The following year he went out and played a full 162 games, posting a career-high 4.8 fWAR and stealing 43 bases. In the past, the people arguing against a Turner extension would claim that he was all speed and when his speed declines, his value would go with it. That concern is not valid anymore as his bat is proving to be a real weapon. In 2020, Trea led all shortstops in average (.335), on base percentage (.394), slugging (.588) and weighted runs created plus (158). His bat was out of this world last year and beyond shortstops, he was one of the top hitters in baseball.
Even if you aren’t a fan of the limited sample size of 2020 stats, Turner still showed that his bat was real in 2019, where he hit just under .300 and slugged just under .500. Turner is continuing to prove that he is a star and he deserves to be paid like one. As always in professional sports, it will come down to money; oddly enough, Washington may be in the perfect financial position to get this move done.
The Nationals have been very quiet since adding Alex Avila on January 28th and they currently sit at a payroll of around $192 Million. That leaves them just about $17 Million below the luxury tax threshold before they start paying any penalties. Normally, Rizzo and company like to have about $10 million dollars to play around with at the trade deadline and it looks like they will have around that this year.
Working the Numbers
For a Turner extension to be cut and dry, we are going to steal some of that remaining payroll for this hypothetical and leave Rizzo with around $8 Million for in-season acquisitions.
The other $9 Million would go directly to Trea Turners extension and push his AAV to $22 Million a year. In this idea, the extension would be for 7 years and $154 Million dollars. That may sound light, but that would make him the second highest paid shortstop in baseball behind only Francisco Lindor. Plus, in the current climate of the pandemic and with potential labor battles looming, players might be more inclined to take the guaranteed money. Also, Turner’s family just added a new member in his baby boy Beckham Dash Turner, so why not lay down some roots in the District. Turner has said before that he wants to be one of the rare guys that spends his whole career in one place.
Though our hypothetical seems to work, this extension could truly go a million different ways. Maybe they add another year. Maybe some more money on top of the AAV. Maybe an extension starts after the next arbitration years. And as with most big deals with Washington’s owners, there will likely be deferrals.
Time is of the essence for the Nationals as it would benefit them to get something done before Lindor sets the market with his next contract. Now is the time to make Trea Turner a National for life because as the days pass by, the price will only go up.
Edited by: Jonathan Mailloux