The Yankees could revolutionize their infield with Trea Turner in 2023

Ryan Garcia
trea turner, yankees, mets
Oct 15, 2022; San Diego, California, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers shortstop Trea Turner (6) hits a double in the third inning against the San Diego Padres during game four of the NLDS for the 2022 MLB Playoffs at Petco Park. Mandatory Credit: Kiyoshi Mio-USA TODAY Sports

The Yankees found themselves defeated by the Houston Astros as their offense whimpered into the night. An offense that limped into October due to injuries, they needed to have stability at the top of the lineup, and they just couldn’t find it.

Brian Cashman is the target of plenty of criticism, some warranted, but in a sense, the struggles of Aaron Judge were not something you can account for. Judge was under a lot of pressure with few offensive weapons around him, and when he isn’t right, the Yankees can’t hit at all. They’ve taken the first step of building this lineup by retaining Rizzo, who performed well in the playoffs, but they can’t be done yet. SNY reports that the Yankees have checked in with a lot of top position players on the market, including Dodgers’ star SS Trea Turner.

Coming off another elite season, Turner is one of the premier position players on the market, and he provides the offensive skills the Yankees have been looking for at the top of the lineup for years. If you want a 5-tool player, Trea Turner could change the Yankees for the foreseeable future.

Changing the Lineup Dynamic on the Basepaths

Trea Turner has posted gaudy baserunning numbers that the Yankees sorely need at the top of their lineup. While the Yankees displayed more aggression on the basepaths in 2022, they didn’t have the requisite talent to pull it off to their best capabilities.

For most of the season, players like Josh Donaldson, Gleyber Torres, Anthony Rizzo, Jose Trevino, DJ LeMahieu, and Giancarlo Stanton were starting the majority of games. Out of all of those players, the fastest was Gleyber Torres, with his 40th Percentile Sprint Speed. Isiah Kiner-Falefa and Harrison Bader were speedier options in the lineup, but only Bader provides actual value to the team. As a whole, the Yankees finished 21st in BsR (-5.7), which is still a step up from their 2021 mark (-15.1) but still has room to improve.

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Sep 5, 2022; Bronx, New York, USA; Minnesota Twins third baseman Gio Urshela (15) beats the tag of New York Yankees shortstop Isiah Kiner-Falefa (12) for a stolen base in the sixth inning at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

This is where Trea Turner steps in, with the 7th best BsR (6.5) in baseball and 7th most Stolen Bases (27), he was in the 99th Percentile in Sprint Speed in 2022 and displayed his continued excellence as an athlete. Turner is someone who would help complete revamp how the Yankees handle baserunning, with high-volume SB output on elite efficiency (90% Success Rate).

What further aids Turner as a baserunner is the fact that he would be creating plenty of difficult decisions for pitchers as they face a hitter like Aaron Judge, who’ll they would want to throw more breaking balls against but also risk allowing Trea Turner to swipe second with ease. Pitchers use fastballs 9.2% less with runners on, and these are opportunities that the Yankees simply can’t take advantage of due to having slower runners. With Turner in the lineup, this creates added opportunities to complicate matters for opposing pitchers and defenses, putting pressure on them constantly.

In 2023, we’ll see bigger bases as well, providing an opportunity for Trea Turner to further terrorize pitchers and catchers on the bases. He’s stolen 230 bases in his career already, and assuming he keeps his strong sprint speeds, he could steal over 40 bases in 2023. This surge in stolen bases due to expanded bases also coincides with the pitch clock being implemented.

Pitchers will have less time between pitches, and this could cause some pitchers to have fewer “max-effort throws.” Pitchers could shy away from going all out on every pitch since they won’t have as much time between pitches to recover, and this is on top of the added incentive to be slightly quicker to the plate since runners will go more often. We could see a slight decrease in the Stuff+ of certain pitchers, and Turner’s ability to plant a seed of fear in a pitcher’s head as a threat to steal could further emphasize that need to hurry up their stride to the plate.

Now some people may have doubts here; most notably, why would the Yankees sign a guy long-term who’s game is predicated on speed? Well that’s because to say Trea Turner relies on speed is a massive oversight of his great offensive tools.

One of the Best Hitters in the Sport

It’s hard to picture the fastest player in baseball is also an elite hitter, but this is why Trea Turner is about to get handsomely paid. He’s put up ridiculous numbers at the plate, and the batted ball data behind his success points to it being sustainable. Over the last two seasons, Trea Turner’s put together some of the best offensive numbers in the sport:

  • 135 wRC+ (T-22nd)
  • .312 BA (2nd)
  • .500 SLG (26th)
  • .367 wOBA (19th)
  • .858 OPS (22nd)

Being a top 25 hitter in the sport is quite impressive, and Turner does it in a way that should bode successful for a very long time. Turner has a career K% below 20% while also having great raw power as well. Trea Turner ranks in the 86th Percentile in Max Exit Velocity, topping out at 112.5 MPH on this doubled laced down the line off of Carlos Rodon.

At 112.5 MPH, he slots around the likes of Manny Machado, Salvador Perez, Paul Goldschmidt, Freddie Freeman, and Bo Bichette. For someone who’s game relies just on speed, he seems quite adept in the power department. He’s also clubbed 20+ HRs in both of his last two seasons, and this is without the juiced balls we saw in years past. Turner started swinging much more in the 2020 season, and that’s when he broke out for a 158 wRC+ and slugged .588 as well.

  • 2017-2019:
    • 44.6% Swing%
    • 18.2% Called Strike%
    • 5.6% Barrel%
  • 2020-2022:
    • 49.7% Swing%
    • 15.4% Called Strike%
    • 7.7% Barrel%

Being aggressive and attacking pitchers was the mentality shift Turner needed, going from a nice player on the Nationals to a superstar whose production stacks up with anyone in the sport. He’s a monster at the plate, and pitchers can’t just try to pitch at him in an attempt to put him away and attack a team’s top slugger. While he isn’t going to be the Yankees’ best hitter if Aaron Judge returns and with the likes of Giancarlo Stanton, he certainly stabilizes the leadoff spot by providing a solid OBP due to a high BA alongside good power and the previously mentioned elite baserunning.

The offense is explosive, but how does Trea Turner hold up at shortstop?

Should You Trust Trea Turner at Shortstop?

Trea Turner has been an up-and-down defender in his career, being very league-average in 2022. He posted -1 DRS and 0 OAA in 2022, and in 2021 he had +1 DRS and +1 OAA. This is about as pedestrian as it gets, and the reasons for that stem from the fact that he doesn’t have a great arm. His arm strength ranks in the 39th percentile, and weaker arms can’t play as deep at shortstop since they’ll struggle to complete throws across the infield.

Despite this trend, Turner began was deeper at shortstop, and his defensive metrics got significantly better as the season went on because he played in more, allowing him to complete more of those throws he couldn’t previously. His OAA at the end of April was -4, so to end up with a 0 OAA means Turner added 4 OAA over the following months of the season.

If Trea Turner made an adjustment that can make him a plus-defender at the position, it’ll dramatically help his WAR value, as good defense at a premier defensive position is remarkably valuable.

Turner is also very promising defensively at 2B, as when he played there last season, he put up 3 DRS and 2 OAA in under 500 innings at the position, and overall in his career, he has 7 DRS and 5 OAA across 729.1 innings. His defensive value as a middle infielder is most certainly something to note, and he shouldn’t just be someone that you hope can provide average defense. His great speed creates ton of range, and that can help him hold his own in the near-future.

Thankfully, the Yankees have young prospects up the middle who can help Turner transition to 2B as he ages, and that’s something that a lot of teams can’t say. See, for the Yankees, their prospects aren’t a reason to avoid Turner, rather, they’re a reason to bring him in.

Prospects Shouldn’t Stop the Yankees

One of the biggest criticisms you’ll see used against bringing in a player like Trea Turner is the fact that the Yankees have plenty of young talent in the infield. To that, I raise the counterpoint; how many of them are going to be as good as Trea Turner? The answer to that question is most likely none of them, and that’s even looking at Anthony Volpe. It’s hard to place the expectations that Volpe will be a 6 WAR player because that’s just not a realistic bar to set for a prospect to have to leap.

Oswald Peraza is a nice player, but he isn’t even better than Volpe to many, much less Trea Turner. The Yankees could have an established superstar at shortstop, and that would allow them to have security up the middle as they figure out which youngsters are legit or not. If the Yankees want to capitalize on Peraza’s value, they could move him in a deal for a marquee trade target instead of spending money in free agency, as they’ll have a lot of money allocated to Turner and Judge in this scenario.

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Oct 15, 2022; San Diego, California, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers shortstop Trea Turner (6) scores a run in the third inning against the San Diego Padres during game four of the NLDS for the 2022 MLB Playoffs at Petco Park. Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

Trea Turner doesn’t make Anthony Volpe obsolete, rather, it makes the Yankees’ middle infield incredible. They could move Turner to 2B if Volpe is the better defender, and if he struggles at the MLB level, they have the versatile Oswaldo Cabrera. Betting on three youngsters to figure out the two middle infield positions is a tall task, so why not acquire a superstar who can stabilize it? The Yankees have the financial resources to do so, and it would only make them better. As Turner ages, I imagine moving him to 2B could be the move anyways, so it opens the lane for Volpe to still become the Yankees’ franchise shortstop. You could be looking at the best middle infield duo for a half-decade, and it’s an opportunity you can’t pass up on.

Trea Turner has been one of the best players in all of baseball since 2020. Look at any leaderboards since 2020, and Turner’s going to be near the top of every list. For the first time in a while, the Yankees can sign a player who excels at all aspects of the game.

The only thing in their way is money, and they have plenty of contracts they can move if need be. As for a contract for Turner, FanGraphs projects him to get a seven-year deal at $210 million, but I feel that’s a bit low. Perhaps an eight-year deal at $260 million is more fair, giving him $32.5 million a year until he’s 37 years old. It’s a large price tag, but why can’t the Yankees do what it takes to land a superstar free agent?

You can settle for the failures you’ve experienced in the postseason in the past, or you can go out and acquire one of the best players in the game and pair him with the American League MVP. He’s averaged 6.5 fWAR per 150 games over three seasons, and there just aren’t many players built to be as consistent and elite as he is. This isn’t a player bound to break down early into their contract, this is a player who guides your franchise to a World Series title. You’re the New York Yankees, make the move that would stun the entire league and put you back on top.