Getting traded within a year after being selected in the 1st Round of the MLB Draft can’t be easy. Having to wait for months to be included as the Player to Be Named Later, and having to play for the minor league affiliate of the team that traded you can’t be easy either (and rules were later altered so it won’t happen again).
Trea Turner handled it all like a pro, however, and after the 23-year-old rose quickly through the minors, he was eventually called up to the majors on a full-time basis during Washington’s run to an NL East division title last season.
Turner told MLB Network Radio hosts Casey Stern and Jonny Gomes on Thursday that though it wasn’t easy, he did what he had to in order to get through the drama that followed his inclusion as the PTBNL in the three-team trade between the San Diego Padres (who took Turner in the first round of the 2014 Draft), the Tampa Bay Rays, and Nationals, who acquired the infielder along with right-handed starter Joe Ross.
“I think every young player thinks they’re going to play with the team they got drafted by for 20 years and everything is going to go dandy,” Turner explained.
“I had to learn really quick that it’s a business and things happen. I was at first a little upset because obviously I wanted to play for the Padres, but that just means that somebody else wanted you as well that’s why they traded for you, so I was excited about the opportunity to continue to play that’s all you can really ask for and I tried making the most of the opportunity that I had over there.”
“I don’t like playing bad wherever it is, for whoever it is, so I just took it one at bat at a time, one rep at a time and just gave it my all.”
Over 73 games and 324 plate appearances with the Nationals last season, Turner, who was drafted as a shortstop then moved to center in the majors, posted an impressive .342/.370/.567 line, 14 doubles, eight triples, 13 home runs and 33 stolen bases in what ended up a 3.3 fWAR campaign in the nation’s capital.
He was a finalist for the NL Rookie of the Year.
Turner talked in his MLB Network Radio interview about having some good role models to learn from as he adjusted to life as a major leaguer.
His manager, Dusty Baker, first base coach, Davey Lopes, and teammate, Daniel Murphy, were all mentioned as people who Turner looked to and learned from during his first sustained run in the big leagues.
Having Baker, the former major leaguer and veteran skipper there to help guide him through the season definitely helped according to Turner.
“It’s amazing getting to know him and just how he relates to everybody,” Turner said.
“It doesn’t matter who you are, he has something in common with you and I think he’s very good at being personable, you can talk to him, and he makes everything fun. He wants to win more than anybody, but at the same time you’re going through a long season and you need to have fun, you need to enjoy it and you need to embrace everything and I think he makes it a little bit easier on us by being loose but also at the same time making sure we’re getting our work done and we’re focused.”
Baker also has lots of Hank Aaron stories.
“Tons of them,” Turner joked.
“I learned real quick that a lot of the guys that I’ve been playing with played a lot more baseball than me, especially Dusty so you can just open your ears and shut your mouth and listen and you can learn a lot by just having conversations with those guys.”
Turner also listened closely to what base-stealing guru and Nationals’ first base coach Davey Lopes had to say. Turner stole his team-leading 33 bases in 39 attempts.
“It’s pretty unbelievable talking to Davey because he’s so experienced he sees stuff that nobody else sees,” Turner explained.
“I’ll get on first base and he’ll tell me, ‘Alright he’s doing this or that,’ and I’ll look for it and I can’t see it, but he just has that experience, so any little movement, no matter how small, he can figure it out and having those conversations with him and learning from him will help benefit me in that area.
“He may not be teaching anything revolutionary, but if he just describes something a different way than I’ve heard before, and that clicks with me or my teammates or whoever he’s teaching then I think that goes a long way.”
Turner also watched Daniel Murphy closely to see what he could pick up from the veteran infielder (who will be his double play partner this season with Turner now shifting back to short).
“He’s always trying to improve, talk about baseball, talk about hitting, he loves it,” Turner said.
“That’s the guys you want to play with because it’s a long season. He wants to win each and every game, each and every rep. It’s impressive watching him prepare.
“I remember in Spring Training last year, when I first met him, I was watching him go through his drills and stuff in the cage and I’m like, ‘What the heck is he doing?’
“He was doing a bunch of weird stuff that I’ve never seen before, really, and he was putting a lot of emphasis on different things and then you go out and watch him have his at bats and he knows exactly what he’s trying to do and he executes it, so it’s no surprise to me that he had that year and I think he’ll continue to have those years because he’s just that good at preparing and he’s so knowledgeable in knowing what he wants to do that he makes it easier on himself.”
Turner’s first full season in the Nationals’ organization ended with a 7 for 22 run in the NLDS loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers, but getting to experience the postseason early in his career was a positive experience overall. What stood out?
“The thing that stands out to me the most is the fans,” Turner said. “Because you go through a season, you have ups and downs, fans come, don’t come, whatever it is, and when you get to the postseason, they’re on their feet from pitch one. If you strike out the first at bat of the game, they’re on their feet and excited like it’s the last out of the game, which I think you have to get used to because that energy — that kind of indescribable feeling, it’s electric. It’s fun. It makes each situation, each at bat, each pitch just magnified and that much more fun.”