First impression – The Justin Turner signing is working out well for the Blue Jays

Photo credit:© John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
Tyson Shushkewich
11 days ago
The Toronto Blue Jays entered last offseason looking for some offensive help, especially with the potential turnover looming for the regular lineup. Matt Chapman, Whit Merrifield, Brandon Belt, and Kevin Kiermaier were all destined for free agency and only Kiermaier returned while Belt is still looking for a Major League opportunity.
Considering the free agent market was full of bat-first players, starting at the top with superstar two-way player Shohei Ohtani down to bounce-back candidates like Rhys Hoskins, there were free agents available that could have benefited the Blue Jays lineup, who ranked in the middle of the pack in most categories last year.
This was in part due to some of the Jays’ regulars batting near the league average compared to what was expected, including George Springer, Alejandro Kirk, Daulton Varsho, and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. This lack of offense was a sticking point for an organization that boasted one of the best pitching staffs in the league and ultimately became their downfall, as the club only mustered two runs in the two-game Wild Card series against the Minnesota Twins.

Blue Jays seeing early success at the plate from Justin Turner

When the dust settled and Spring Training rolled around, the front office added two new position players (on top of bringing back Kiermaier), the defensive-minded and versatile Isiah-Kiner Falefa and Justin Turner, the main offensive-related acquisition for the Blue Jays. The club also brought in Daniel Vogelbach and Joey Votto on minor league deals, hopeful that one of these two could become the left-handed batter off the bench, a role the Jays lacked last year. Vogelbach won the job out of Spring Training and has been a walking machine, generating a .389 OBP but struggling to but the ball in play (2 for 13). 
Turner, who turns 40 later this year, has over 15 years of experience at the big league level heading into this campaign spread out between the Orioles, Mets, Dodgers, and Red Sox, where he spent last season. At the plate, Turner has some sneaky power from the right side, compiling five 20+ home runs and six 30+ doubles seasons since becoming a full-time player in 2011. He boasts a career .288/.363/.465 slash line and a .829 OPS entering the year and has posted an OPS+ over 110 since 2014, highlighted by a 155 OPS+ in 2014 through 288 at-bats.
At this stage in his career, Turner is destined to be the Blue Jays go-to designated hitter, sharing the duties with the left-handed hitting Vogelbach for the time being. The Jays haven’t been afraid to use him elsewhere on the diamond, with the veteran big leaguer making three appearances at the hot corner and one over at first base so far this season but he will be slotted into the DH more than the other two positions.
In the batter’s box, the California product has been everything the Jays were expecting when they signed him to a one-year pact.
Through 17 games and 54 at-bats, turner has 18 hits to the tune of a .333/.424/.519 slash line and a .943 OPS. Of the hits, 44.4% have been for extra bases (seven doubles and one home run) and he has been one of the Blue Jays top bats this campaign. He also leads the team in every slash line category as well as RBIs (nine) while flirting with the A.L. lead for doubles over the past few weeks.

Turner’s success compared to the rest of the Jays lineup

This success has not translated over to the rest of the team out of the gate but the Jays have slowly started to find a groove after being humbled to two runs across three games in Houston a few series ago and dropping two games against the Yankees last weekend. Since returning home to the Rogers Centre on April 8th, the Jays have collectively posted a 123 wRC+ (ranked seventh) and have been getting on base at a .356 clip with a .276 average to boot.
Considering the front office was banking on the Blue Jays’ bats returning to form this season, Turner was the only prominent offensive player they acquired this winter and so far, the veteran hit machine has been doing everything that has been asked of him.
Working as the team’s cleanup hitter when slotted into the lineup, Turner has been a bright spot on a somewhat bleak offense to start the season that is slowly starting to come around. Should the rest of the Jays’ lineup outside of a few outliers like Davis Schneider or Isiah Kiner-Falefa find the same rhythm Turner is producing, the Blue Jays’ offense could reach new heights that give them a stronger chance of postseason aspirations within a stacked AL East division. Varsho and Kirk have seen some improvements since struggling to start the year but the top of the lineup is still underperforming by a wide margin of expectations.
The Jays have hit home runs with one-year deals in the past such as Marcus Semien and Robbie Ray, and may have another success story under their belt with Justin Turner by the end of the 2024 campaign.

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