On the first day he could officially be traded, the Nationals finally acquired shortstop prospect Trea Turner on Sunday from the San Diego Padres, completing the December three-team trade. Turner was technically the “player to be named later” in the deal and couldn’t be traded until a year after he signed his draft deal with the Padres. He had been in limbo until now.
“It was a unique strategy we had when we made the trade,” General Manager Mike Rizzo said. “It was really unprecedented and creative by our front office to really identify and get a player that we wanted all along.”
Turner, who was rated the Padres’ second-best prospect by Baseball America, will report to Class AA Harrisburg. He instantly becomes the Nationals’ best position-player prospect. Turner, who will turn 22 at the end of the month, had been playing well for the Padres’ Class AA affiliate in San Antonio during the limbo period. He hit .322/.385/.471 with five home runs, 35 RBI and 11 stolen bases in 58 games.
In order to get Turner, the Nationals were creative. It took three teams and outside-the-box thinking. Based on rules that have been since been changed, Turner couldn’t be traded for a year. He was the Padres’ first-round pick in 2014, the 13th overall selection out of North Carolina State. He signed a deal with a $2.9 million signing bonus on June 13, 2014. So the first possible day he could be traded was Sunday.
“It’s not my job to makes the rules,” Rizzo said. “Our job is to do the best we can within the rules. We felt that this was an opportunity to get a player in a unique way and acquire him. It was an outside the box suggestion by our front office and ultimately by me to the Padres. We got the player that we wanted and they got a player ultimately that they wanted. In essence, both teams we satisfied by it.”
Until the Nationals could receive Turner, they weren’t allowed to be in contact with him. But they kept a close eye on him and all his games. The Nationals trusted the Padres to care for Turner in the meantime.
“We’ve had guys going in there to scout him periodically,” Rizzo said. “We made an assignment for several of our professional scouts to make their way through San Antonio to see him play. We had evaluated him throughout the process and the Padres handled the situation perfectly. They treated him like the prospect that he is. I give him a lot of credit for not hindering his progress and his development by treating him just like any other prospect would be. My hats off to those guys. That was something that we discussed when we made the trade and they’ve done everything that we expected of him and they did things that we really in the best interest of Trea.”
The Nationals have already reaped returns, albeit minor so far, from the trade with the Tampa Bay Rays and Padres. The Nationals dealt outfield prospect Steven Souza Jr. at his relative peak value — he was blocked in Washington’s outfield — and minor-league starter Travis Ott. In return, they received pitching prospect Joe Ross, a 2011 first-round pick who has been impressive in two starts so far, and Turner.
“The current [Padres] regime in there didn’t draft the player,” Rizzo said. “They didn’t have a lot of ownership to the player. I’m not sure how much they knew the player as an amateur. We loved him as an amateur player high on our board. Obviously we didn’t have a high enough pick to get him. When the discussions opened with San Diego about acquiring Souza, we felt that Souza wasn’t a guy we were looking to move or looking to shop. But they were pretty adamant in their interest of him and if they’re that interested in him and we can get a deal that made sense for us we would make a deal.”
Turner is considered a possible replacement for Ian Desmond, who will be a free agent at year’s end and hasn’t reached a contract extension with the Nationals in past negotiations. Thee Nationals believe Turner is capable of staying at shortstop. He was the Padres’ minor league defensive player of the year in 2014. He has hit at every level so far — he hit .323 in 2014 — and will add strength to his 6-foot-1, 175-pound frame with time. Speed is his most outstanding trait; he stole 55 bases to lead all NCAA Division I as a freshman.
“He’s a guy that’s got a good approach at the plate,” Rizzo said. “He’s got a good eye. He’s a very poised hitter. He should be a high average, high on-base percentage guy and profiles at somewhere at the top of the order offensive player and a guy that runs extremely well and has the chance to steal a base.”
Turner was en route to Harrisburg on Sunday. Rizzo said he would speak with Turner later and welcome him to the organization. Turner posted a message on his Twitter account on Sunday afternoon.
— Trea Turner (@treavturner) June 14, 2015
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