MLB Free Agency: Former Dodgers Justin Turner & Cody Bellinger Decline Options

The MLB offseason is now underway as teams and players have until November 6 to accept or decline contract options for the 2024 season, which will amount to more potentially entering free agency.

For the Los Angeles Dodgers, Lance Lynn reportedly had his team option declined while the club worked out a contract extension with Max Muncy to keep him in Dodger Blue for at least the next two seasons.

Around the league, some other players entered the free agent market, including Liam Hendricks, who had his optioned declined by the Chicago White Sox; Whit Merrifield, who declined his mutual option with the Toronto Blue Jays; and Jorge Soler declined his player option with the Miami Marlins.

Two notable former Dodgers also ended up back on the market as Justin Turner declined his $13.4 million player option with the Boston Red Sox and received a $6.7 million buyout, while Cody Bellinger rejected his $25 million mutual option and took a $5 million buyout.

The Dodgers do have a need for outfielders and will likely add two this offseason, so a reunion with Bellinger could be possible, even if it is unlikely. The Dodgers also have a somewhat crowded infield with Muncy back and Mookie Betts expected to play more second base moving forward, but Turner seems more likely to return still of the two.

Turner could split time with Muncy at third base while the other fills in at designated hitter on the other days. If the Dodgers do end up signing Shohei Ohtani, that makes Turner more unlikely to come home for a reunion, however they could end up getting Muncy more time at second base.

There’s also the possibility Turner would be open to a bench role to spend what could be his final season with the Dodgers, similar to the roles previously held by Albert Pujols, Chase Utley and David Freese.

Cody Bellinger and Justin Turner free agency outlook

Cody Bellinger

The 28-year-old is in line for a multi-year deal after a rebound season where he hit .307/.356/.525 with 26 home runs, 97 RBI, 95 runs scored, 20 stolen bases and a 134 wRC+ while playing stellar defense. Bellinger also cut his strikeout rate to 15.6%, roughly 7% below his career average.

Despite the offensive uptick from the previous two seasons, there are still some concerns in Bellinger’s offensive profile. He ranked in the 22nd percentile of MLB hitters with an average exit velocity of 87.9 mph, a barrel rate in the 27th percentile at 6.1% and a hard-hit rate in just the 10th percentile at 31.4%.

That led to Bellinger posting an expected batting average of just .270 and expected slugging percentage of .470. That may ultimately limit the total value of Bellinger’s contract, but he should still be a popular name for teams in search of a center fielder and some star power.

Justin Turner

Turner is coming off his least-productive season since 2013 with the New York Mets, but he was still solid overall, hitting .276/.345/.455 with 23 home runs, 96 RBI and 86 runs scored with a 114 wRC+.

That should amount to Turner to signing with a team in a starting role, but he will be in his age-39 season and has a declining offensive profile, ranking near league average or worse in xBA, average exit velocity, barrel percentage, and hard-hit rate.

In 2023, Turner saw time at first base, third base and even some second base while mostly working as a DH, which is where he profiles best moving forward.

Turner could receive a one-year deal worth an estimated $10 million, which would put give him higher earnings when combined with his buyout than he would have made if he opted in.

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