Inside the Clubhouse: Brewers still chasing Justin Turner?

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This week, Inside the Clubhouse looks at the Brewers’ continued interest in Justin Turner, how DH uncertainty changed the market for Marcell Ozuna and more.

Even after signing Kolten Wong to a two-year, $18 million contract, the Milwaukee Brewers remain interested in free-agent third baseman Justin Turner, according to sources familiar with the situation.

The Los Angeles Dodgers are the favorites to sign Turner and have been for most of the offseason, but the longer he remains on the market, the greater the chance he plays elsewhere next season. Teams have concerns about his age (36) and recent injury history, unsure how much longer he will hold up at third base if the universal designated hitter is not implemented in 2021 and beyond.

It is why the Dodgers and other teams have been hesitant to offer Turner the three-year deal he is reportedly seeking. But what he presents both on and off the field, one executive opined, will ultimately land him a lucrative multi-year contract — even if it is taking longer than he envisioned.

Turner was a vocal leader for the Dodgers, with Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times noting that it was Turner and Mookie Betts who spoke at a team meeting a day before the postseason opener in 2020. He was ingrained in the community and became one of Los Angeles’ “most prominent citizens through his charitable endeavors.”

On the field, Turner has a knack for performing at his best in the postseason. He is a .295/.392/.507 hitter in 72 career playoff games. In the World Series last season, he hit .320 with two home runs.

It has led some inside the Brewers organization to wonder if he could have an impact similar to Mike Moustakas, but one team executive cautioned that it is “unlikely” Turner leaves Los Angeles. But with the structure of Wong’s contract, deferring $5 million of the $7 million he is owed in 2021, perhaps the Brewers can put together an offer strong enough to entice Turner to leave the Dodgers.

Blue Jays are after Taijuan Walker

The Toronto Blue Jays have shown recent interest in free-agent pitcher Taijuan Walker, according to sources with direct knowledge.

The Blue Jays have maintained a dialogue with Walker for most of the offseason, but the two sides have not lined up on the length of a contract. A deal is not believed to be close, though with the team needing another starting pitcher, they have made it clear that they would like to bring him back if the price is right.

Free-agent left-handed pitcher James Paxton is also on the Blue Jays’ radar, sources said, but Andy Martino of SNY reports that he is seeking more than $11 million annually. It is not known how much room the Blue Jays have to spend, but it is hard to see them spending significant money on a pitcher who posted a 6.64 ERA in 20.1 innings last season while averaging only 92.1 mph with his fastball — a pitch that averaged 95.5 mph in 2019.

The Blue Jays were also in on free-agent infielder Marwin Gonzalez, who agreed to a one-year, $3 million deal with the Red Sox. He would have offered strong depth and a much-needed left-handed off the bench behind Marcus Semien, Bo Bichette and Cavan Biggio. Gonzalez also drew interest from the Boston Red Sox and Philadelphia Phillies, among others.

On Thursday, the Blue Jays signed reliever David Phelps to a one-year deal. With teams increasingly concerned about their pitching depth as the league ramps back up from 60 to 162 games, it would hardly be surprising to see the Blue Jays add another arm or two.

DH uncertainty affected the market for Marcell Ozuna and the Braves

The uncertainty surrounding the universal DH “truly impacted” the market for Marcell Ozuna, one National League executive said, who added that it’s “bullshit” that an agreement on the DH has not been reached.

It handcuffed multiple teams that coveted Ozuna’s bat, but also had serious concerns about his ability to play every day in left field. Still, rival executives were impressed that he ultimately signed a four-year, $65 million deal with the Atlanta Braves that can reach $80 million if the fifth-year club option is exercised.

The universal DH is highly likely to be part of the next CBA, starting in 2022, as Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reported, so perhaps those concerns were overblown.

Around the Horn:

  • The Brewers expressed interest in free-agent outfielder Shin Soo-Choo, who has been working out at first base with the goal of increasing his versatility. They were among the teams to show interest in Choo at first, but it is not clear if they remain involved after Keston Hiura became their full-time first basemen.
  • Free-agent pitcher Chaz Roe is throwing for a few teams this weekend in Lexington, KY. Roe, 34, is said to be fully healthy after dealing with right elbow soreness in 2020. While he has struggled against left-handed hitters, Roe is known for a devastating slider against right-handed hitters.
  • Free-agent pitcher David Robertson threw for teams, including the New York Yankees, at the University of Alabama, according to Jon Heyman of MLB Network.
  • On Oct. 28, 2018, the Red Sox’s outfield featured Mookie Betts, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Andrew Benintendi. On Feb. 11, 2021, none of them are under contract in Boston.

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