Cleveland Guardians fans were filled with optimism following the 2022 MLB season. After all, the Guardians had just won the AL Central with a 92-win campaign and even made it to the ALDS for the first time since 2018.
Unfortunately, Cleveland couldn't capitalize on that performance one year later. The Guardians finished with a 76-86 record in 2023, missing the playoffs for the third time in five years. The regression was fueled by a lack of offense, highlighted by their averaging just 4.09 runs per game — fifth-worst in the Majors.
In other words, general manager Mike Chernoff must dedicate this offseason to figuring out how to improve the club's offense. Fortunately, The Athletic's Jim Bowden has the perfect free agent to help in that regard.
Guardians Free Agent Targets: Justin Turner
Bowden suggests that two-time MLB All-Star and 2017 NLCS MVP Justin Turner could solve the Guardians' offensive issues. The proposed signing would see Turner join Cleveland on a one-year, $12 million contract, which makes sense given that he just turned 39 last week.
Turner has been one of the most consistent batters of the last decade, recording at least 20 home runs and 67 RBIs in six of the last eight 162-game campaigns. And despite his age, he's still coming off one of the best seasons of his career, having tallied 23 HRs with a career-high 96 RBIs while slashing .276/.345/.455 across 146 games with the Boston Red Sox.
After Jose Ramirez was the only Guardian to hit the 20-HR mark last season with 24, Cleveland fans likely wouldn't be opposed to bringing in Turner.
He's also incredibly clutch, having slashed .338/.395/.547 with nine homers and 77 RBIs over 148 at-bats with runners in scoring position in 2023.
On top of a dangerous bat, Turner brings much-needed experience to the table. He's mashed 13 HRs with 42 RBIs across 86 career postseason games, making it to the World Series three times as a member of the LA Dodgers — including when they won it all in 2020. That's the type of experience that could help take the Guardians to the next level.
And with the ability to play designated hitter and each infield position (minus shortstop), Turner gives first-year manager Stephen Vogt some additional lineup flexibility.
Considering how the Guardians currently own the 10th-worst odds to win the 2024 World Series, it'd be in their best interest to make a play for Turner sooner rather than later.
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