Third baseman will deservedly generate plenty of interest
By Matt Kelly
Once considered a useful bench player with the Mets, Justin Turner catapulted himself to the edge of superstardom with a terrific 2016 season that saw him complete his evolution as a player.
Turner's value is much higher as he hits the free-agent market this winter than it was the last time he was a free agent, during the winter of 2013. His name can be found on the top of many free agent lists -- including MLB.com's -- because of his combination of average and power at the plate, as well as his range at the third base position.
Turner's age (he turns 32 this month) may be the only thing that gives teams pause before attempting to sign a player who has really come into his own. As part of our continuing series, here are five reasons clubs should have Turner high on their wish list for 2017:
Hitting his stride
Turner steadily gained more and more playing time as the Dodgers realized his bat was too valuable to keep on the bench, and he flourished once he was finally given the nod as Los Angeles' full-time third baseman. Turner tied for the team lead with 27 home runs and 90 runs batted in last season -- his first in which he accrued more than 500 plate appearances. That made Turner just the fourth player in history to lead his team in home runs and RBIs in his age-30 season or later, while also doing so in a year in which he topped 500 plate appearances for the first time in his career, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Turner's 4.9 WAR in 2016, per Baseball-Reference, far outpaced the total value added by the other three players on that list (Bill Robinson of the 1977 Pirates, Orestes Destrade of the '93 Marlins and Miguel Olivo of the 2011 Mariners), and he figures to provide plenty more value over the remainder of his career.
Bringing them all home
Though Turner played his home games in pitcher-friendly Dodger Stadium over the last three years, only 17 big league hitters with at least 1,000 plate appearances generated more offense than Turner, judging by his 138 weighted-runs created plus over that span. Turner's .325 average with runners in scoring position was the 13th best mark in the National League, and it was actually a shade worse than his .345 average with RISP over the last three seasons -- the second-best mark in all of baseball behind Cleveland's Michael Brantley.
Big in the biggest moments
Need more proof that Turner is clutch? The California native was California-cool in high-leverage situations (scenarios in which there's a high chance the outcome of the game could change), posting top-20 totals among Major League batters with a .340 average, .943 OPS and 37 RBI in such at-bats in 2016. Turner's performance in 2016 isn't far off his career .318 average, .856 OPS and 133 RBI over 487 career high-leverage plate appearances.
He loves October
Though postseason success may not have a direct bearing on Turner's value to his next team, his last three years of postseason baseball demonstrate that he loves to perform under the game's brightest spotlight. Turner's 1.057 OPS and .357 batting average rank 12th and 17th, respectively, in Major League history among batters with at least 50 plate appearances in the postseason. He also just finished off a 15-game on-base streak in the postseason -- beginning in Game 1 of the 2015 NLDS and ending in Game 5 of the '16 NLCS -- that set a new record for the Dodgers franchise.
Cool at the hot corner
Turner established himself in the Majors in part because of his defensive versatility, and he's taken to third base with impressive strides since adopting it as his primary position when he joined the Dodgers. Turner's advanced fielding metrics have improved in each of his three seasons with L.A., culminating in a stellar 2016 campaign in which he paced all National League third baseman with a 14.1 ultimate zone rating and finished third in the league behind Nolan Arenado and Anthony Rendon with seven defensive runs saved, per FanGraphs. Turner's 0.9 defensive WAR, per Baseball-Reference, was also third behind Arenado and Rendon among third baseman who played the entire 2016 season in the NL.
Matt Kelly is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @mattkellyMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.