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Breaking down Justin Turner’s contract, and how he’s worth every cent

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Photo credit:© John Hefti
Brennan Delaney
24 days ago
Major League Baseball contracts can be confusing.
As you may recall, the Blue Jays signed Justin Turner a one-year deal either on the night of January 30th, or the morning of January 31.
Turner, who is 39 years old, signed to a deal worth $13 million, on top of incentives. Those incentives include hitting the 500, 525, 550, and 575 plate appearance plateau, which nets him an extra $125,000 each time. The same structure is in place for the 600, 625, and 650 plateau, but it rises to $250,000 per plateau. Turner will also receive a $150,000 bonus for 120 days on the roster, and $100,000 for 150 days, according to The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal.
 
Not just that, but there are award incentives. Turner would get a $150,000 bonus for winning the MVP, and other, lesser bonuses if he finishes in the top five. If he makes the All-Star game, wins a gold glove, silver slugger, or World Series MVP, he’ll get a $50,000 bonus. If he wins the American League Series, that’s a $25,000 bonus. This is according to Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi.
With the contract stuff out of the way, it begs the question: Is Justin Turner worth the contract? Last season, Turner slashed .276/.345/.455 with 23 home runs in 626 plate appearances for a 114 wRC+, the lowest total since the 2013 season with the New York Mets. His 23 home runs would have ranked second for the Blue Jays, just behind Vladimir Guerrero Jr.’s 26 home runs.
All in all, Turner could earn upwards of $15 million, which is quite a lot for a veteran player that has been on the decline since 2020, as he had a 126 wRC+ in 2021, a 124 wRC+ in 2022, and a 114 wRC+ in 2023.
However, the same could have been said about the Blue Jays’ main designated hitter in 2023, Brandon Belt. After being one of the games’ best hitters in 2020 (171 wRC+) and 2021 (159 wRC+), Belt had one of his worst seasons to date in 2022, slashing .213/.326/.350 with eight homers in 298 plate appearances for a 98 wRC+.
Still, the Jays took a chance on Belt, signing him to a one-year, $9.3 million deal. In turn, Belt slashed .254/.369/.490 with 19 homers in 404 plate appearances, along with a 15.1 BB% and a 34.9 K% for a 138 wRC+. When you remove his horrid first month, Belt had a wRC+ near 160 from May 2 to the end of the season, and was by far Toronto’s best hitter throughout much of the season.
While Turner may be making more than Belt to provide less offence, Turner still has a ton of value, both on and off the field. For starters, he’s a leader and professional hitter that could help the Jays’ younger players pull the ball more. On the field, he’s a clutch hitter who hits with runners in scoring position and can still play numerous positions, such as third base and first base.
At the end of the day, it’s to be seen whether or not Turner lives up to his contract. However, there’s a good chance that his leadership and experience will help the Jays in ways that may not be easily seen. Not just that, but the 39-year-old is still a hell of a player.

As always, you can follow me on Twitter, Instagram, and Threads @Brennan_L_D.

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