When the Nationals traded for Trea Turner as the PTBNL from the Padres, the team landed a key part of their World Series championship season of 2019, and a cornerstone piece of the Nats’ future. How far that future goes is anyone’s guess as the team only controls Turner for this season and 2022 unless a contract extension happens.
With a seventh place finish in the 2020 NL MVP voting, Turner really raised his stock price. Some have said a 59-game season like 2020 cannot be relied on, but if you look at Turner’s 2019 season after he returned to the team in May, recovering from broken fingers, the team’s resurgence was at the same time that Turner put up a slash of .306 /.363/ .509/ .871 from May 28 to the end of that championship season. Don’t forget that Turner was great in his rookie season when he slashed .342/ .370/ .567/ .937 and finished second in the Rookie of the Year voting. The truncated 2020 season statistically was his best of them all offensively with a .982 OPS, and for Trea he is not satisfied as there is work to be done defensively to get back to where he knows he can be as a shortstop. He believes in continual improvement in all aspects of his game.
“Obviously the defense I want to improve on,” Turner said. ”I always try to improve on everything, and try to continue offensively what I did last year. I think I made a lot of good steps there. I think I can make some more. … Improve on those little things.”
What his value is going to be is a large 9-digit number. It is hard to say who he comps closest to. This season as a Super-Two arbitration player in his third year, the 27-year-old will earn $13 million.
“I would love to play here my entire career,” Turner said on a Zoom call today. “I’ve said it in the past — I’ve always liked it here and don’t think the grass is greener on the other side necessarily, but it’s a business and things change. But as of right now, I would love to play here for my entire career.”
“Those talks have happened in the past and hopefully they’ll happen in the future but as of right now we’re taking it day by day I guess.”
Turner said that the Nats have talked to him about an extension before, and they did not agree to a deal at that time. This would be the time to get a deal done that would start next year as not to affect this year’s AAV (approximately $197 million currently) which is nearing the CBT cap of $210 million for the team.
Over $70 million is coming off of the books this year potentially on expiring contracts, and the Nats largest contract going forward is paying Stephen Strasburg $35 million a year through 2026, and Patrick Corbin $23.33 million a year through 2024. The next largest veteran deal in place is Will Harris‘ $8 million owed in his final year of his 3-year contract. The team will have a decision to make on extending Max Scherzer who is in his final year of his 7-year contract signed before the 2015 season. Of course the team would like to extend Juan Soto who is controlled by the team through 2024.
The key for the team is creating value and production from the minor league system which means the team has to promote more stars from within the system. If they can do that, the team can free up cash to extend Turner and Soto.
“[Juan Soto and I] are always joking together, I think we have a great relationship and I think it goes without saying that we’d love to play with each other for a long time,” Turner said. “I would love to play my entire career here. I would love for him to play his entire career here. But we’ll see. Those are big, big questions and you kind of got to take it day by day, and if it happens, that’d be special.”
Maybe a 2024 roster could look like this:
Obviously we are just putting out potential names from the bullpen, but the good news is that it finally looks like the Nats have a chance to build a bullpen from their own minor league system.
If Turner and Soto are extended, here’s a potential lineup:
- Victor Robles CF
- Trea Turner SS
- Juan Soto LF
- TBD 1B /Drew Mendoza
- Jeremy De La Rosa RF
- Carter Kieboom 3B / Yasel Antuna
- Luis Garcia 2B
- Israel Pineda C
This is a glimpse in the future and would require a lot of good luck and especially production from the top prospects. So yes, if the team can create value from within, they can extend both Turner and Soto for the long-term if the team creates internal value from the farm system.