This offseason, the Boston Red Sox will need to address their designated hitter slot, most likely with a powerful right-handed bat. If no contract deal is reached in the next several days, Red Sox designated hitter Justin Turner will become an unrestricted free agent on Tuesday.
After a fantastic season, the 38-year-old will almost definitely refuse his player option and seek a new deal. Fortunately, it appears that he will not have to leave Boston to do so. In 146 games with the Red Sox, Turner hit.276 with 54 extra-base hits, including 23 home runs, 96 RBIs, and a.800 OPS (114 OPS+).
“Even with Trevor Story entering the season healthy, the Red Sox are still in need of a right-handed bat for 2024 and, barring a surprise, will have strong interest in bringing Turner back at the right price,” MassLive’s Chris Cotillo wrote Tuesday.
“It’s not hard to envision him slotting right back into the role he had in 2023, serving as the primary designated hitter while starting at first base against left-handed starters in an effort to ease Triston Casas’ workload a bit. The interest seems to be mutual, as well. Turner has repeatedly said how much he loved the experience of playing in Boston and has taken a liking to the area.”
There’s a case to be made that he was the most important offensive contributor on the team last season, even without considering the obvious leadership position he assumed immediately upon joining.
At 39, he’ll be eligible for a one-year or two-year contract, with the former presumably including a 2025 option.
The only reason Boston would be hesitant to re-sign Turner is because of the team’s general defensive difficulties. By making Turner the designated hitter, Masataka Yoshida, Rafael Devers, and Triston Casas would be able to play everyday defense. That is not good news for the Red Sox.
The Red Sox, on the other hand, might cushion the impact by acquiring a high-end second baseman. There’s also the chance that Devers reverts to his 2022 defensive form and Casas improves in his second full season.
Urner in a vacuum appears to be a must-have for next season. The defensive alignment may get confusing, but having a leader who can drive in over 100 RBIs mitigates this concern.