WASHINGTON -- Trea Turner is happy to show off his right index finger now. It does all sorts of fun things, like bending.
It stopped cooperating last season when Turner was hit by a pitch after squaring to bunt in the fourth game of the season. A tailing pitch struck Turner’s finger, broke it and sent him to the injured list for six weeks. He came back before the original projections, then never healed, often losing control of the bat on swings early in his return.
Turner endured through Halloween before the finger was repaired in the offseason. His range of motion is back -- mostly.
“Now I probably have two, three times what I had before,” Turner told NBC Sports Washington. “Obviously not going to be perfect. But, I feel good. Started hitting like a week ago and can hit again with all 10 fingers. Going to have to get used to that.”
Washington also reached a one-year deal with Turner in the offseason to avoid arbitration. He’s a 26-year-old shortstop who plays every day -- when avoiding pitches coming at body parts -- has a career .815 OPS and may be the fastest baserunner in the National League. In other words, he’s a significant commodity playing for just $7.45 million this season. He’s underpaid.
Turner remains three years from free agency. His arbitration salary will continue to grow as he wades into his prime years. He can become a free agent in 2023, which will be his age-30 season.
Meanwhile, he’s a prime candidate for an extension. Players ranging from the minor leagues to their mid-20s are repeatedly being retained with extensions which knock out arbitration years but also keep the player from free agency. Would Turner be interested in such a scenario in Washington?
“For me, I’m gray on a lot of areas,” Turner told NBC Sports Washington. “If the deal’s right, if I like it, I’m not scared to take it. Same thing, if it’s not right, I’m not going to settle. Everyone I think knows their worth, [they] at least think they’re worth something -- whatever that is, high, low, willing to take less or try to get more.
“For me, I’m all ears. I’ll listen and communicate. At the end of the day, I like it here. I don’t think the grass is always greener on the other side, per se, and I’m happy where I’m at. If it comes to that, I’ll be happy to play here hopefully my entire career if they’ll let me. But, I’m also weighing all options. I think everybody should. If you don’t listen, I think it’s a little foolish.”
Turner is among the few marquee players in the Nationals’ clubhouse not tethered to Scott Boras, which, in theory, could make an extension more palatable. However, recent extensions appear more player driven or, simply, bad ideas.
Ronald Acuña Jr.’s eight-year, $100 million contract with the Braves continues to stun. Atlanta holds two team options at the back end of it. Stephen Strasburg’s 2016 extension worked perfectly for him when working out on both ends. He chose the security of the deal well before free agency, then free agency when he acquired all the leverage.
Turner’s leverage could pivot in the next two seasons. Washington is currently without a clear No. 3 hitter, which puts numerous options in play, including the idea of moving him from leadoff into the slot. Davey Martinez was not at Nationals Winterfest this year, so he is yet to be asked about possible alignments. But, the idea was brought up to Turner multiple times during his stops at Nationals Park, much to his surprise.
“I’ve always liked leading off because I feel like I can contribute the most there,” Turner said. “It’s hard for guys to pitch around me. I can get on base and do different things. … If I have to be the three-hole hitter, then I don’t know. We have a lot of good hitters. I don’t know if that’s going to happen. We’ll see in spring training.”
Turner will be chasing one number no matter his spot in the lineup. He hit 19 home runs in 2018 and 2019, respectively. Hitting 20 is notable in his mind, and that of Kevin Long.
“Hell, yeah, because I am always going back and forth with Kevin Long. If I would have hit 20, then we would have done something,” Turner said. “Just leave it at that.”
He has three more years in Washington to hit the mark. After that? He may be like several other young players which moved through the organization and departed. Or, he could be like Strasburg, and just stay on South Capitol Street from the start to the end.
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