LOS ANGELES — Trea Turner is happy with the Los Angeles Dodgers. On Monday, during a conversation about being traded by the Washington Nationals last July, the all-star shortstop wanted that to be known. But asked whether a year has changed his feelings at all, Turner looked down and grinned in the home dugout at Dodger Stadium.
The short answer was no. The longer answers again showed Turner felt wronged by the Nationals.
“It’s just that communication is key and I don’t think the communication was good,” Turner told The Washington Post. “I know things change and whatnot, but I just never thought it was communicated how things had changed, you know what I mean? When the spring started over there last season, they were telling me they wanted to build around me. It seems like the same stuff is happening with Juan [Soto] right now. It is what it is, but it’s the truth. I can accept the business side of it. I just wanted it to be fair.”
Turner, 29, played with Washington for parts of seven seasons. He was and remains one of the best shortstops in the major leagues. He led the National League in hits, stolen bases and batting average in 2021. After this season, he can become a free agent and find out how much other teams value him.
That’s a common discussion around the Nationals these days. And by bringing up Soto on his own, Turner opened himself up to more questions about his former teammate. Turner joked that he has been talking about the 23-year-old star for two weeks. Soto, like Turner before him, could be dealt in the coming days because the Nationals’ front office doesn’t foresee signing him long term. Turner can empathize with how Soto’s public message — that he would like to stay in Washington — might clash with the reality of negotiations.
When the Nationals dealt Turner, the Dodgers added him with two months and a season of team control left. Any team acquiring Soto this season would get three pennant races out of him, an unprecedented amount of control for a premier hitter. By shipping Turner and Max Scherzer to Los Angeles, Washington netted catcher Keibert Ruiz, starter Josiah Gray, outfielder Donovan Casey and reliever Gerardo Carrillo.
“It can be hard to separate what you want and the money. When you talk to a team you could sign an extension with, you really have to consider both,” Turner explained. “When fans see what’s happening, when front offices see what is happening, it’s hard to separate that the money and where a guy wants to play may be competing with each other. Juan wants his worth, which he should. But I also don’t think he’s lying when he says he wants to be in Washington. So it’s hard to get both things, when you say you want to stay there and they say, ‘Well, how bad do you want to stay here?’ That’s kind of what he’s going through right now. That’s what I went through.”
Soto recently turned down a 15-year, $440 million contract offer that did not include deferrals, according to multiple people familiar with the terms. The average annual value of $29.3 million would rank 20th all-time — not nearly high enough for him or agent Scott Boras. And while urging any team to empty the bank for Soto, Turner offered more candid thoughts on the Nationals and how he used to see his future.
“I ended up betting on myself every step of the way,” he said. “I got offered multiple contract extensions while with the Nationals, and with both of them I thought I still had better baseball to play. I thought I proved that. I don’t know if I played too well or something. I don’t know what happened. But I wanted to play for them the rest of my career. If they offered something even close to what I thought was my worth, I probably would have took it and I’d still be there. But they obviously didn’t do that.”
One of those offers to Turner was in the neighborhood of six years and $100 million, according to multiple people with knowledge of past discussions. But after the New York Mets signed shortstop Francisco Lindor for 10 years and $341 million in the spring of 2021, Turner’s agents wanted a similar deal for their client.
Turner is only five months older than Lindor and had comparable career numbers. Since Lindor was locked up — a deal that happened, funny enough, when the Mets were in D.C. — Turner has been far and away more productive. The Nationals didn’t make another offer, though, according to multiple people familiar with the situation. And soon Turner could see what two more great years could do for his bottom line.
The truth is that, in a perfect world, he never wanted to become a free agent. Yet unless the Dodgers extend him in next three months, Turner will hit the open market ahead of his 30th birthday. It would feel fitting in a sense.
“What I’ve learned in the process is if you think you have better baseball to play, then wait,” Turner said. “And if you play your best baseball and you’re content with whatever is offered, then maybe you consider taking a deal. It’s always going to be tricky. You can only trust yourself.”