MILWAUKEE — Trea Turner has no significant connections to Chicago or the Cubs.
He’s from Florida. His wife’s from New Jersey. They both went to college in North Carolina. And Wrigley Field amounted to flyover country when the star shortstop went from Washington to Los Angeles last summer in the trade that sent him and Max Scherzer to the Dodgers from the Nationals at the deadline.
But he knows this much when it comes to the Cubs, if Jed Hoyer reaches out trying to make a connection this winter:
He’d need to hear Hoyer’s so-far elusive plan and even-more-elusive timeline for his Rebuild That Shall Not Be Named.
“From learning how this process works from talking to other guys, I think that’s mandatory,” Turner said during a conversation with NBC Sports Chicago on his pending free agency and the Cubs before Wednesday’s Dodgers-Brewers game.
“From multiple organizations, you’d want to know what they expect or where it’s going or what they’re trying to do — kind of a vision,” he said. “Whatever that vision is it is. But I think that’s mandatory.
“You need to know how the next few years look and how that pertains to you and your family and your career,” he added. “It’s definitely a factor in picking a team.”
That Cubs “vision” has taken on a heightened sense of significance, if not urgency, with both Hoyer’s and chairman Tom Ricketts’ assertions in the past week that the Cubs plan to be “aggressive” with offseason spending on free agents.
Turner, 29, is one of the top hitters in the upcoming free agent class, joining a second consecutive bumper crop of available shortstops expected to also include Carlos Correa of the Twins and Xander Bogaerts of the Red Sox.
MLB’s fastest player also has 25-homer power, a batting title, a 2019 World Series ring and All-Star selections the past two seasons.
“He’s definitely one of the elite shortstops in the league right now,” said one guy who should know, one-time Cub Nomar Garciaparra, a former batting champ and six-time All-Star shortstop, who’s now part of the Dodgers’ broadcast team.
Garciaparra is also a guy who’s able — and willing — to offer Turner insight into playing for the Cubs.
“I love Chicago. I’ve always loved the city,” Garciaparra said. “I’d say Chicago’s my favorite city; Boston’s my favorite town, and L.A.’s home. So I got pretty lucky.
“But that’s how the place is in my heart. I would tell that to anybody. I would tell him,” Garciaparra said. “But everybody’s different — what they feel, what they see, or what they know.”
Even if the Cubs were to make Turner their top target this winter, it’s anything but clear whether they would have an unobstructed — or even competitive — shot at him.
The Dodgers haven’t had any extension talks with him, but they don’t have any hot-shot shortstop prospect waiting in the wings, and young second baseman Gavin Lux — who came up in the Dodger system a shortstop — doesn’t have the glove to suggest he’s a viable option to backfill as the everyday big-league solution for a competitive team.
They are expected to saddle him with a qualifying offer (tying him to draft-pick compensation) and then discuss returning — the same approach they took with last year’s departing All-Star shortstop, Corey Seager.
“I would love to be here,” said Turner, who reportedly made it known initially last year that he was chapped at the trade that sent him to the other coast last summer. “Whatever it is, from almost any angle you look at it, it seems like [the Dodgers] are the best in baseball, or one of the best. This place is awesome.
“I’d like to be here, and hopefully they feel the same way, that they would love to have me. But if that’s a conversation for later, this offseason, then I’m looking forward to it.”
That doesn’t mean Turner hasn’t already gathered some intel on the Cubs along the way.
He’s talked with former teammate and friend Yan Gomes since Gomes signed that two-year contract with the Cubs over the winter and chatted up Ian Happ during All-Star festivities last month.
“I have no opinion myself other than it seems like everyone who plays there really, really likes it,” he said, “and I’m sure that’s for numerous reasons, whether it’s the history, or the fan base, or how they run the organization, or the fans just showing up each and every day — they pack that place out.
“I think it’s cool that those guys like it that much.”
But that’s as far as he takes it. And it might be as far as the Cubs get, even if they target him — at least until he might hear the kind of answer’s he would need to make the biggest professional choice he might get to make in his career.
Turner said he doesn’t have a list of priorities he’ll seek for a destination this winter — or even a top priority, he said.
But that “mandatory” info on the “vision” and timeline Turner would need from the Cubs, or any other unfamiliar team, could be huge.
How huge a factor that becomes in the big-market Cubs’ efforts to land any free agent(s) they want looms as one of the more intriguing questions to answer for an elite-revenue team that is undergoing its second multi-year rebuilding process in a decade.
Bogaerts and Aaron Judge both told NBC Sports Chicago that could be a factor in their decisions if the Cubs were to call. Correa said his talks with the Cubs last winter went nowhere fast because of their rebuilding status.
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Turner said he was surprised to see the Cubs blow up their championship core after the 2020 division title and ownership’s unwillingness to weather what Ricketts called “biblical” losses during the pandemic — but quickly suggested it shouldn’t be surprising, given his recent experiences with the Nationals.
“If the owner wants to do something different, then they do whatever they want to do,” he said. “Sometimes that has to do with play on the field, and sometimes it doesn’t. Obviously, if you play good baseball every year and nothing goes wrong, then you can easily keep trying to win. But if something goes bad and ownership wants to change directions, there’s not much you can do about it.
“I think it’s unfortunate,” he added, “when teams decide they have to rebuild or not compete or whatever you want to call it.”
Or, as the case might be, whatever you might not want to call it.
About the only thing Turner seems to know for sure is that he has put himself in better position than most entering free agency, as part of another historic class of shortstops, with a chance to earn a second ring in the coming months and with a healthy appreciation for what comes next.
“Most of our careers are spent with one team or being told what to do,” he said. “And this is the one time that you get to look out for yourself and do what you want to do. I’m looking forward to it. It’s a lot of pressure, though — a lot of different kinds of answers to be had.
“But you’re in control; you’re in the driver’s seat, and as an athlete that’s what you want.”
A lot of different answers to discover. Mandatory ones, even.
And if the Cubs have enough of them, to go with enough of that “aggressive” spending they promise, well, one other thing Turner knows is that he seems to like the batter’s boxes well enough at Wrigley Field to perform well in his 13 career games there.
“We’ll see,” Turner said. “We’ll see.
“You never know.”