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Trea Turner is 'all ears' when it comes to considering contract extension options

Trea Turner is 'all ears' when it comes to considering contract extension options

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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Max Scherzer vs. Justin Verlander spring training matchup: Time, TV Channel, How to Watch

Max Scherzer vs. Justin Verlander spring training matchup: Time, TV Channel, How to Watch

Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander never faced each other last fall when the Nationals beat the Houston Astros in seven games to win the World Series.

It was a matchup between two former Detroit Tigers teammates that fans would've loved to see, but they'll have to settle for a February spring training game instead.

Scherzer and Verlander will take the hill for their respective clubs on Thursday as the defending pennant winners gear up for the start of the 2020 season.

Here's everything you need to know before first pitch Thursday night.

Nationals vs. Astros spring training matchup: How to Watch

Who: Washington Nationals vs. Houston Astros
What: Grapefruit League game with Max Scherzer vs. Justin Verlander
When: Thursday, February 27, 2020 at 6:05 p.m. ET
Where: FITTEAM Ballpark of the Palm Beaches, West Palm Beach, FL
TV Channel: You can watch Nationals vs. Astros on MLB Network
Radio: 106.7 The Fan (until 7:45 p.m. ET)

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Juan Soto hits his first home run of spring training

Juan Soto hits his first home run of spring training

When asked last week what his spring training goals were, Juan Soto simply said: "to make the team."

Soto doesn't need to worry about his spot given his status as one of the league's best young players, but he began to make his case with an opposite-field home run on Tuesday. 

During the 2019 season, the lefty showed his ability to hit for power all over the field. Of the 37 home runs Soto hit between the regular season and playoffs, 20 were to the opposite side of the field, according to Fangraphs' spray chart.

After the ball left his bat Tuesday, Soto began his trot around the bases as the ball sailed over the fence in left-center field. 

His trot around the diamond looked as comfortable as he should feel with his standing on the Nationals' roster, but it's promising to see a young star resist complacency.  

After hitting .282 with 34 home runs and 110 RBIs last season, Soto's spring training blast is only a preview of what's to come when the reigning champions defend their title this season. 

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