Why Prince Fielder may sign early with the Brewers

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The fact that Boras — a dude who hardly ever has elite clients sign early — would talk to the Brewers about Prince Fielder two years before free agency was something of a head scratcher when we learned about it yesterday. But then I read Heyman’s column today (don’t think I enjoy it; I have to for professional reasons) and was reminded of a pretty darn salient fact I had forgotten:

The greatest positional class of free agents comes in two years, when star first basemen Albert Pujols, Ryan Howard, Adrian Gonzalez and Prince Fielder are all eligible for agency.

Boras can be really annoying, but he’s not stupid. I don’t think Pujols is a legitimate bluff for any 1B-courting team come 2011 — he’ll be a Cardinal for life by then — but there’s a really good chance that Howard and Gonzalez are on the market along with Fielder. Given how much better shape Howard is in now than he was a few years ago, I’m not certain that Fielder isn’t the third choice among those guys, even if he is (a) younger; and (b) the better hitter right now.

In light of that, locking Fielder up in Milwaukee two years before he hits the market may be a very Boras move after all: it’s the play that makes his guy the most money.

Justin Turner is a postseason monster

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A not-insignificant amount of the Dodgers’ success in recent years has to do with the emergence of Justin Turner. In his first five seasons with the Orioles and Mets, he was a forgettable infielder who had versatility, but no power. The Mets non-tendered him after the 2013 season, a move they now really regret.

In four regular seasons since, as a Dodger, Turner has hit an aggregate .303/.378/.502. His 162-game averages over those four seasons: 23 home runs, 36 doubles, 83 RBI, 80 runs scored. And he’s also a pretty good third baseman, it turns out. The Dodgers have averaged 95 wins per season over the past four years.

Turner, 32, has gotten better and better with each passing year. This year, he drew more walks (59) than strikeouts (56), a club only five other players (min. 300 PA) belonged to, and he trailed only Joey Votto (1.61) in BB/K ratio (1.05). He zoomed past his previous career-high in OPS, finishing at .945. His .415 on-base percentage was fourth-best in baseball. His batting average was fifth-best and only nine points behind NL batting champion Charlie Blackmon.

It doesn’t seem possible, but Turner has been even better in the postseason. He exemplified that with his walk-off home run to win Game 2 of the NLCS against the Cubs. Overall, entering Wednesday night’s action, he was batting .363/.474/.613 in 97 postseason plate appearances. In Game 4, he went 2-for-2 with two walks, a single, and a solo home run. That increases his postseason slash line to .378/.495/.659, now across 101 plate appearances. That’s a 1.154 OPS. The career-high regular season OPS for future first-ballot Hall of Famer Albert Pujols was 1.114 in 2008, when he won his third career MVP Award. Statistically, in the postseason, Turner hits slightly better than Pujols did in the prime of his career. Of course, we should adjust for leagues and parks and all that, but to even be in that neighborhood is incredible.

In the age of stats, the concept of “clutch” has rightfully eroded. We don’t really allow players to ascend to godlike levels anymore like the way we did Derek Jeter, for instance. (Jeter’s career OPS in the playoffs, by the way, was a comparatively pitiful .838.) Turner isn’t clutch; he’s just a damn good hitter whose careful approach at the plate has allowed him to shine in the postseason and the Dodgers can’t imagine life without him.