In a move that seems somewhat surprising, the Marlins announced that they designated right hander Jacob Turner for assignment yesterday in order to clear a roster spot for lefty Brian Flynn. Turner, acquired from the Tigers in 2012 as the key return for Anibal Sanchez and Omar Infante, has had an awful season with the Marlins and lost his rotation spot with the club after a decent 20 start run in 2013. While Turner's 5.97 ERA this season is ugly, he's just a couple of years removed from being ranked a top 25 prospect in all of baseball by a number of publications and at 23 years old, likely still has time to fulfill his potential to some degree. The issue is that he's out of options and cannot be sent down without clearing waivers, which seems highly unlikely at this point. With all of this in mind, I would like to see the Mets make a move to acquire the righty as a buy-low project in order to add to the organization's impressive portfolio of young pitching.
Drafted by the Tigers out of high school with the 9th overall pick in the 2009 MLB draft, just three spots behind current Mets starter Zack Wheeler, Turner signed a major league contract worth $5.7 million over 5 years and began his professional career in 2010. He split that season between Low-A West Michigan and High-A Lakeland and had little trouble at either level. He began 2011 as a 20 year old at AA Erie and the results were much the same there before a promotion to Triple-A Toledo for three starts. Overall, he featured solid though not eye-popping strikeout rates to go along with excellent walk rates and an ability to limit hits all at an age well below the league average. He received a big league cup of coffee that season and made 3 starts for the Tigers, struggling in his first big league exposure but he looked to be on the cusp of extended work in the majors.
Heading into 2012, Turner missed some time early on with shoulder tendinitis and made his season debut on rehab with High-A Lakeland before rejoining Triple-A Toledo. There, he saw his strikeout rate tumble down to a disappointing 5.7 K/9, while his walk rate jumped up to 3.4 BB/9 and yet he still managed a quality 3.16 ERA. Turner also spent time in the big leagues, making three more poor starts before the Tigers dealt him to the Marlins at the trade deadline. Turner has spent his time between Triple-A New Orleans and the big leagues ever since with up and down results.
Despite the fact that the Mets appear to be up to their ears in quality pitching, they could always stand to add more young and inexpensive talent. Even with his struggles this year, the 6'5" righty has actually seen an uptick in his average fastball velocity from last season. Though the ERA certainly isn't pretty on the surface, Turner has managed to post the best FIP (4.01) and xFIP (3.93) of his brief big league career, as his strikeout and walk rates are both career bests. His 51.3% groundball rate is also easily a career high, a good sign for a pitcher that relies on his sinker, while his swinging strike rate, though not eye-popping, is right near his established career norm at 8.8%. The biggest issue for Turner has been the hits allowed, which have come in bunches this season as his .368 BABIP shows. The question then becomes whether this is an issue of opponents making hard contact against him, plain old bad luck, or some combination of the two.
So here we have a pitcher who is still quite young and inexpensive, still appears to have the stuff that made him a high draft pick and top 25 prospect in baseball, and is available on the cheap because a division rival looks to have given up on him during a down year. Under Dan Warthen, the Mets have had a pretty strong success rate in recent years developing young pitching prospects into major leaguers, whether you look at Jon Niese and Dillon Gee or Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler or even the current bullpen arms like Jenrry Mejia and Jeurys Familia. It might be tough to swallow having Turner take up a spot on the big league roster without the ability to demote him but if the Mets can straighten him out, the reward could be well worth it for the organization as he would add yet another talented young arm to their impressive stable of pitchers.
Should the Mets try to acquire Jacob Turner from the Marlins and if so, what would you be willing to give up for him if the Marlins end up trying to trade him?