Sports

Justin Turner Turned a College Baseball Alumni Game Into a $72 Million Payday From the Dodgers

Justin Turner and the Los Angeles Dodgers have been an unexpected perfect match.

It was only a few years ago that the New York Mets non-tendered Turner, a solid third baseman but one who the team didn’t view as a game-changer. Still a few years away from Cody Bellinger and Mookie Betts teaming up, Los Angeles signed Turner for nothing.

The Mets might regret that move even more every day. Without Turner, the Los Angeles Dodgers wouldn’t be four wins away from their first World Series title in over 30 years.

Justin Turner is the Dodgers’ star third baseman

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No one, maybe not even Justin Turner, would have imagined his MLB career would look like this by 2020.

Turner, who turns 36 in November, is already in his seventh season with the Dodgers. The former All-Star hit .307 with four home runs, 23 RBIs, and nine doubles across 42 games in the pandemic-shortened season.

For his career, Turner has hit .292 with 124 home runs, 495 RBIs, and 234 doubles in 12 MLB seasons. At his best in Los Angeles, Turner has been hitting .302 with 116 home runs and 406 RBIs in seven years.

A capable postseason player, Turner enters the 2020 World Series with a career .292 average, 10 home runs, and 39 RBIs in 66 playoff games.

Turner won MVP honors after the 2017 NLCS when he hit .333 with two home runs, seven RBIs, and five walks to four strikeouts.

The Mets cut Turner loose after 2013

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Although he debuted with the Baltimore Orioles in 2009, Justin Turner rose to some prominence when he saw extended action for the New York Mets two years later.

Turner played all over the field and served as an adequate reserve who could jump into the starting lineup when injuries eventually hit the Mets. Turner hit .265 with eight home runs, 86 RBIs, and 57 doubles in 301 games with the Mets from 2010-14.

New York non-tendered Turner after the 2013 season — in non-baseball terms, the team didn’t offer him a new contract — and he became a free agent.

Justin Turner used a college alumni game to rescue his career

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As the 2013-14 MLB offseason continued, Justin Turner found himself without any suitable offers.

Turner participated in an alumni game at his alma mater, Cal State Fullerton. Then-Dodgers hitting coach Tim Wallach attended the event and asked Turner if he was close to signing with a team.

When Turner said no, the two sides worked out on an agreement and brought Turner into the fold.

Turner hit .340 in 109 games that season and became a mainstay with the Dodgers. In December 2016, nearly three years after an alumni game rescued his career, Turner signed a four-year, $64 million contract with the Dodgers.

In total, the Dodgers paid Turner $72 million across those seven seasons.

During a 2017 interview with ESPN, Turner explained what it felt like having found success at the MLB level at a later age than he’d hoped.

“In a perfect world, you say, ‘Oh man, I wish I figured this out 10 years ago.’ But who knows what would have happened if I did that. So I think this was the path I was supposed to take and I am happy where I am right now. I’m not worried about four, five, six years ago.”

Turner is a free agent after this season. If he chooses to play again in 2021, Turner likely won’t need an alumni game to land a new contract.

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