Sandy Alderson must sit and watch the 2017 playoffs asking, What If? What if Alderson kept Turner around rather than non-tendering him on December 2nd, 2013. Set to make only $800,000 in 2014, Mets fans were left scratching their heads over the Turner non-tender. Then reports came out that the front-office was frustrated due to Turner’s lack of hustle. When Alderson was asked about the situation, all he had to say was “Don’t assume every non-tender is a function of money.”
Let’s not sugarcoat the past, Justin Turner was not the player with the Mets that he is today. In his 3 seasons with the team, he slashed .265/.326/.370 with a 97 wRC+ in 895 plate appearances. He hit only 8 HR, and was worth a measly .9 bWAR. His number’s will not jump out at you, but he was a valuable bench bat that could contribute all over the field. In 2013, he played at least 10 games at 1B, 2B, SS, 3B. He was due a smidge over $300,000 what you would pay a league minimum player. Instead of paying Turner a small amount Alderson cut ties over his hustle. The rest is history.
Since signing with his hometown Dodgers, Turner has been a completely different player. He is slashing .303/.378/.502 in 1,926 plate appearances while being worth 18.9 bWAR across 4 seasons. On Media Day for his All-star appearance this season, he went over some of the adjustments he made in the 2013 off-season, “I didn’t really change my swing — the leg kick — I just kind of changed the thought process of the swing. Before I was trying to let the ball get deep, trying to keep all my weight back on my back side, and now I’m trying to catch the ball a little more out in front, get it in the air, and get a weight transfer into my frontside.”
To make the decision to look even worse for Alderson, Turner has only gotten better when the playoffs roll around. Among players with 100 postseason at bats, Turner has the highest On-Base Percentage at .495, the next highest is Lou Gehrig at .483. He is third in OPS among players with 100 AB’s behind legends, Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth. He seems to excel under the bright lights and Mets fan got a first hand view of what Turner is capable of in the 2015 NLDS when he slashed .526/.550/.842 in 20 plate appearances with 4 RBI and 6 doubles and 10 hits. His career slash line in the playoffs is .378/.495/.659 with 5 home runs and 23 RBI.
I can’t speak for all Mets fan when I say that I still root for Turner. I have even looked into getting his Dodgers jersey. I was excited when he hit his walk off home run versus John Lackey in Game 2 of the NLCS, and I will continue to root for his success. He is one of Alderson’s biggest mistakes since taking over the Mets GM role (Daniel Murphy anyone?). Alderson’s decision to non-tender Turner over hustle will haunt his regime with the Mets as the team continues to fill the large shoes that David Wright has left in the dirt at third-base.