The deadline to exchange salary figures for arbitration hearings was Friday at 1 p.m. and it took until the evening for the Nationals and Turner to settle. Washington had previously avoided arbitration with three players, agreeing to one-year deals with outfielder Michael A. Taylor ($3.325 million), right-handed reliever Hunter Strickland ($1.6 million) and infielder Wilmer Difo ($1 million).
Last February, the Nationals had arbitration hearings with Taylor and reliever Kyle Barraclough. Teams and players typically try to avoid such hearings because they tend to damage relationships. The hearings include the team telling a player why he is less valuable than he or his agent believes. The player is in the room. The room is tense. They end with a neutral arbiter choosing between two options — the player’s presented salary or the club’s.
Turner, 26, is a key to a future without Anthony Rendon. Turner started 122 games last season, missed 39 with a broken right index finger and still hit .298 with a .353 on-base percentage, a .497 slugging percentage, 19 homers and 35 steals. The fracture led to a bone spur in his knuckle, then the tendon scarred into the top of the finger. The injury was not repaired until offseason surgery in November. He played through the pain, not sitting for four months, and helped the Nationals win their first championship.
In the coming years, the Nationals are expected to explore a long-term contract with Turner, who is on track to hit free agency in 2023. They view Turner as a franchise cornerstone, and he has been consistently off limits in trade discussions. The idea is that he will spend the bulk of his career in Washington, forming a core with young outfielders Juan Soto and Victor Robles.
But that’s a puzzle for another day. The Nationals checked arbitration off their to-do list and can move ahead with filling out their team for 2020. They remain interested in bringing back Ryan Zimmerman on a low-cost, short-term deal. They have only two spots left on their 40-man roster. Pitchers and catchers report to West Palm Beach, Fla., in a month, and then the title defense begins.
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