Braves Potential Free Agent Target: Trea Turner

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - OCTOBER 21: Trea Turner #6 of the Los Angeles Dodgers smiles as he returns to the dugout during game five of the National League Championship Series at Dodger Stadium on October 21, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - OCTOBER 21: Trea Turner #6 of the Los Angeles Dodgers smiles as he returns to the dugout during game five of the National League Championship Series at Dodger Stadium on October 21, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) /

The Off-season has officially begun, and the Atlanta Braves will have some decisions to make. Dansby Swanson is set to hit free agency and that could potentially leave a hole at shortstop

We have gone over the options at shortstop for the Atlanta Braves if Dansby Swanson does in fact leave. There are variables in place that could happen that would lead to this event. Swanson and his agent may believe he is worth more than Atlanta offers, or the Braves’ front office may miscalculate Swanson’s market value, just to name a few.

Needless to say, there are free agent options out there that could fill the hole that Swanson would leave on the Braves roster. There are three big name shortstops that will most likely be available via free agency. Xander Bogaerts, Carlos Correa, and most notably Trea Turner.

So, what would the Atlanta Braves get in Trea Turner should they sign him?

First, it should be noted that a lot of dominoes would have to fall in a certain way for the Atlanta Braves to even consider Turner (or any of the top shortstops for that matter), since he will most likely be the highest paid free agent shortstop on the market. The Atlanta Braves will have to raise their already record high payroll and potentially break the luxury tax threshold for the first time in their history. They would also have to be comfortable with not making large adds to the roster anywhere else.

Knowing Alex Anthopoulos, he can perform some type of wizardry and work out was to manipulate the payroll. But, the odds are slim of this happening. Either way, it is fun to imagine having Turner in a Braves uniform, and he brings a lot to the table.

Turner has steadily been a top shortstop in MLB ever since he debuted in 2015. In 849 games he has accumulated a whopping 31.6 fWAR. Doing a little math, that comes out to averaging 6.02 fWAR per 162 games for his entire career.

For reference, if we look at the other three big name shortstops potentially on the market, Swanson averages 3.17, Bogaerts averages 4.38, and Correa averages 5.71.

To be fair, you sign a player for what they will bring in the future, and not the past, but Turner was 3rd in all of MLB in fWAR this past season with 6.3, right behind Swanson’s 6.4. It should be noted too, that a large chunk of Swanson’s fWAR was due to insanely good defense, which tends to decline faster than offense does (not to take anything away from Swanson’s amazing season).

As we saw with his season fWAR, Turner is incredibly consistent at being well above average, and this past season Turner was exceptional in all facets of the game.

Offensively, he was 28 percent better than league average in terms of weighted runs created adjusted (wRC+) which would place him 4th among all shortstops and tied for 12th in the NL overall. He also led the NL in plate appearances and at bats while securing a slash line of .298/.343/.809 with 21 home runs.

It should be noted that this was an offensive down year with the league average OPS being the second lowest since 1992. Yet, Turner’s slash line was very close to his career average of .302/.355/.842. He did have a drop off in power, but so did the entire league on average.

One area of Turner’s game that largely gets overlooked is his base running. Most know he is a basestealing threat, having led the league twice, but he is exceptional if you include base running outside of just steals. BsR is the measure of value added to a team based on base running on non-stolen base plays and stolen base plays. With 6.5 in 2022, that places Turner 9th in all of MLB. Since 2016 when he started playing on a more regular basis (73 games in 2016), he is second in MLB in that time frame in BsR.  In Ultimate Base Running (UBR), which is only non-stealing base running plays, he is 10th in MLB in the time frame.

Defensively, Turner is not on par with guys like Swanson or Correa, but he is still no slouch. He took a step back this year in terms of out above average (OAA) as he was in the bottom 48 percent in 2022. However, other than the COVID shortened season, before this past season he was never worse than the top 29 percent.

It should also be noted that OAA is a good metric, and is doing a lot for baseball, but one area it has not grasped well yet is positional value. For example, a first baseman could have as many OAA as a shortstop, but if he were to play shortstop on a regular basis, he would not have as many OAA because he is not as athletic.

To help give fuller picture, let us also look at defensive Wins Above Replacement (dWAR), which does factor in positional value.

Over his career, Turner only had one negative defensive season in terms of dWAR, which was in the COVID shortened season. Overall, Turner averages 1.04 dWAR per 162 games played and had his second best season in terms of dWAR this past year. For reference, Swanson has averaged 1.37 dWAR per 162 games and had 2.0 dWAR to Turner’s 1.0 in 2022. Correa has been a monster in terms of dWAR averaging 2.29 per 162, which is higher than Swanson or Turner has ever had in a season.

Trea Turner may be the Braves best option if Dansby leaves, although he is far from perfect

The point is that Turner is not the defensive beast like Swanson or Correa, but he can hold his own. Even in a defensive down year, Turner was 12th for qualified MLB shortstops in Fangraph’s overall defensive rating.

As far as expected stats go, Turner shows that if he keeps playing like he has been, that there was not bad luck involved:

·         Expected weighted on base average (xwOBA) – Top 29 percent of MLB

·         Expected batting average (xBA) – Top 11 percent

·         Expected slugging (xSLG) – Top 28 percent

It is safe to say that based on his XSTATS and that fact that his batting average of balls in play of .342 in 2022 was right on par with his career average of .344, Turner’s 128 wRC+ was not based on good luck.

The only downfall to his offense is that his xwOBA, xBA, and xSLG, although elite, are down from his past two season in terms of how he has faired against the rest of the league. In 2020 his xwOBA was top 11 percent, xBA top 5 percent, and xSLG top 17 percent. In 2021 his xwOBA was top 16 percent, xBA top 3 percent, and xSLG top 22.

It appears that he is slowly trending down offensively but is still better than most players. It is just something to consider when signing him to a long-term deal.

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A lot has to happen for the Atlanta Braves to be able to sign a player like Trea Turner, and the odds are slim, but if they do, it sure would be fun to watch.