In a surprising move Friday afternoon, the Washington Nationals called up shortstop prospect Trea Turner, who is rated the No. 2 prospect in the organization by MLB.com and by Baseball America as the ninth-best prospect in baseball.
“Yesterday, I was actually sitting in a movie with some of my teammates from Triple-A and Skip called me, Billy [Gardner Jr.] called me,” Turner told reporters at Nationals Park on Friday. “I actually missed the first call or two because I didn’t have his number saved in my phone. He called again, so I went and picked up. He let me know. I was pretty excited.
“He actually just asked me if I’ve ever been to Washington, D.C. before and let me know I was going back there because I had visited once when I was younger. We were watching the new movie ‘Straight Outta Compton.’ It was actually a very good movie, but it made it a little bit better getting that news.”
To make room for Turner on the 40-man roster, reliever Aaron Barrett was moved to the 60-day disabled list because of a sprained elbow. Tyler Moore was moved to the 15-day disabled list because of a sprained ankle. Moore stepped on a baseball in the batting cage Thursday.
Turner is not in Friday night’s lineup. He should have a good chance to play Sunday, which is a day game after a night game, and often used to give regular players a break.
He said arrived in Washington at 4 a.m. His parents, college coach, girlfriend and a bevy of friends are expected at Nationals Park this weekend to watch his likely debut.
“The last 24 hours have been wild, obviously,” Turner said.
Turner, acquired from the San Diego Padres as the player to be named later in a three-team offseason trade that sent outfield prospect Steven Souza to the Tampa Bay Rays and also brought back starter Joe Ross, quickly ascended through the minor leagues this season.
Turner hit .314 at Triple-A Syracuse, with three home runs and 14 stolen bases in 205 plate appearances. Turner mostly played shortstop. He played second base for Syracuse on Tuesday night, marking his first time at the position in his professional career.
Long-term, the organization believes Turner is a candidate to take over shortstop for the Nationals. Ian Desmond is in the final year of his contract with Washington, and can hit the open market after the season. The Nationals would be able to offer Desmond a one-year qualifying offer, should they choose to do so. The value of a qualifying offer is determined annually by averaging the top 125 player salaries from the previous year. Players typically decline the offer and head for the open market.
Desmond’s situation is tricky after he previously turned down long-term deals reportedly worth more than $100 million, then had an atrocious first half in the final season of his contract. He’s been much better since the all-star break, hitting .274 with eight home runs in 117 at-bats, entering Friday.
“This is about winning right now,” Desmond said. “There’s no personal agendas. This is about the Nationals and getting Ws.”
Considering Desmond’s resurgence, the Nationals needing to get Anthony Rendon going, and Danny Espinosa’s strong season, Turner’s at-bats are likely to be limited.
“Depends on need,” manager Matt Williams said. “Depends on where we’re at in games, and how he can contribute to it.”
Williams said Turner could play second base.
“We look at it and say, ‘How can he be valuable to us in winning a game,’” Williams said. “Could be there. Could be off the bench. Could be stealing a base. It could be getting a start. So, nothing in stone, for sure.”
Turner went through an odd process after the trade with the Nationals. He began the season with Double-A San Antonio in the Padres organization before joining the Nationals in June. He played 10 games at Double-A Harrisburg before being moved to Syracuse.
“A lot of it is out of your control,” Turner said. “I’ve always wanted this to happen obviously, it’s what everyone plays for. But I couldn’t tell you what the possibilities were. I’m just excited to be getting the opportunity and I’m ready to approach it as best I can and take it head-on.”
It would not have been a surprise to see him called up when rosters expanded Sept. 1. The trick for the Nationals prior, was to clear a roster spot to make bringing Turner to the big leagues possible. They were able to do that because of Barrett’s injury.