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At 39, Turner will attempt to join select group of productive players


When the Toronto Blue Jays signed Justin Turner, one of his most-lauded characteristics was his experience level, and history of producing consequential hits in big moments.

The veteran slugger has a playoff OPS of .830 in 368 trips to the plate that’s almost identical to his regular-season career average (.829) despite the tougher competition – and a World Series ring to his name.

Considering the Blue Jays’ recent postseason stumbles that may add to Turner’s appeal, but such a track record is only constructed over a long period of time and the veteran enters the 2024 season less than a year shy of his fortieth birthday.

Turner’s age is no secret, and he managed to produce a solid 114 wRC+ in 2023. At the same time, it’s unusual for a team with serious playoff aspirations to enter a season with a player projected to be in their lineup at 39 or older.

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Over the last 15 seasons — a time span that avoids the ‘Steroid Era’ when the use of performance-enhancing drugs helped a number of players sidestep a traditional aging curve — just 15 players have managed even 400 plate appearances in a year at 39, or into their forties. 

It’s worth listing those players out, just to show the calibre of guys we’re talking about here:

Adrián Beltré – First-ballot Hall of Famer

Albert Pujols – Soon-to-be first-ballot Hall of Famer

Alex Rodriguez – Would be a first-ballot Hall of Famer without PED concerns

Carlos Beltrán – Possible Hall of Famer (46.5% on his first ballot)

Chipper Jones – First-ballot Hall of Famer

David Ortiz  – First-ballot Hall of Famer

Derek Jeter – First-ballot Hall of Famer

Ichiro Suzuki – Lock to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer

Ken Griffey Jr. – First-ballot Hall of Famer

Miguel Cabrera – Probable first-ballot Hall of Famer

Nelson Cruz – 10th-best hitter from age-35 on since 2000 by wRC+ (134) 

Raul Ibanez – One of the best late-career hitters in recent memory

Todd Helton – Hall of Famer

Torii Hunter – Hall of Very Good type/Five-time all-star

Victor Martinez  – Five-time all-star

That list is a bit of a red flag when it comes to Turner’s chances to give the Blue Jays something resembling a full season. The vast majority of the guys who have done that at his age lately are among the greatest stars the sport has ever seen.

It’s also worth noting that the 22 seasons from those 15 players weren’t particularly successful. 

Just six of the 22 resulted in WAR of 2.0 or above — a threshold generally seen as the standard for a league-average everyday player — with one topping 3.0 (Ortiz in 2016). Nine of the 22 had a wRC+ above 100. Legendary hitters like Cabrera (77 in 2022), Jeter (75 in 2014), and Suzuki (72 in 2013 and 56 in 2015) fell well short, becoming black holes in the lineups they inhabited.

It’s extremely rare for players Turner’s age to give their team anything approximating a complete season of work. Those that do tend to be superstars, and even those superstars don’t often do much at the plate.

That means that Turner would have a significant outlier to give the Blue Jays what they need in the middle of their lineup. To his credit, that’s precisely what he’s been in recent seasons. Since his 35th birthday he’s slashed .280/.356/.456 — good for a 123 wRC+.

Although that’s impressive, there’s no mistaking the trajectory of his production. In the five seasons since his outstanding age-33 season in 2018, Turner’s OPS has dropped by an average of 24.8 points per season.


If he were to match that average decline in 2024, his overall offensive production would be just above league-average — a disappointing outcome for a Blue Jays team hoping Turner can bolster the middle of their lineup.

For what it’s worth, FanGraphs’ projection systems are relatively bullish on the veteran with ZiPS predicting a 115 wRC+ for him in 514 plate appearances while Steamer has him at a 105 wRC+ in 563 trips to the plate. If he hit the former projection, Toronto would be delighted. The latter would make him a slightly below-average DH.

If he’s able to hit even the Steamer projection that will be a break from recent historical precedent, but it’s possible he can find success at this stage of his career without a Hall of Fame pedigree. He could be the next Ibanez, Cruz, Hunter, or Martinez.

Even though that seems like a narrow lane, it’s precisely what the Blue Jays are counting on.

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