‘I’m not even there yet’: Justin Turner finds possible Red Sox return ‘fantastic,’ but not ready to make 2024 commitment

Red Sox

Turner has a player option for next season.

Justin Turner has enjoyed his first season in Boston, but positional musical chairs could leave him out of the picture for 2024. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

Justin Turner has proven to be a pivotal part of the 2023 Red Sox. It’s far from a guarantee though that he’s on the team next season.

The Red Sox designated hitter and corner infielder signed a two-year deal last offseason with an option for the second season that still allows him to earn money from the team.

As a big decision awaits Turner, the 38-year-old (who turns 39 in November) isn’t ready to make a 2024 commitment.

“I’m not even there yet. That’s for after the season and we’ll figure it out when that comes,” Turner told reporters on which way he might be leaning, via MassLive’s Chris Cotillo. “I love playing in Boston and I’ve had a great experience here, so obviously, it would be fantastic if I was still here.”

Following a relatively quiet opening month in Boston, Turner warmed up as spring turned to summer. He hit .306 with a .913 OPS to go with 16 homers and 66 RBIs in 68 games from June through August.

Turner’s hot streak at the plate, particularly in June and July, coincided with the Red Sox’ climb up the standings, as they sat just a couple of games out of the playoff picture for a good amount of that stretch. But a bone bruise Turner suffered on his heel on July 31 also coincided with Boston’s fall down the standings, struggling in August and September, with Turner hitting .214 in the latter month.

Turner took both a glass-half-full and empty approach when assessing his season.

“I feel like it was good but not good enough, obviously,” Turner said. “The goal is to play in the postseason and we fell short of that. That’s disappointing. Barring me hurting my heel in Seattle, missed a few games for that and a couple games in San Diego earlier this year when my knee was barking, I think I’ve done a pretty good job of being available, going out every night and trying to post.”

While Turner’s bat has been essential to the Red Sox having one of the best offenses in baseball this season (he’s top three on the team in average, OPS, homers, and RBIs among qualified hitters), Boston might not have room for him next season. It’s been speculated that the Red Sox could move Masataka Yoshida to be their designated hitter on a more regular basis in 2024.

Turner also has an incentive to opt-out. He’ll still earn $6.7 million if he declines the $13.4 million option for 2024. With the way Turner’s hit this season, it’s easy to think that he’ll more than make up the difference between the two numbers.

If Turner is entering the final week of his Red Sox tenure, he seems grateful for it.

“I’ve loved it. It has been fantastic,” Turner told The Boston Globe’s Pete Abraham in an interview of his time in Boston. “Love the city, my wife [Kourtney] loves the city. The organization has been first class really since Day 1. When I got hit in the face [by a pitch] in spring training, Chaim [Bloom] and Raquel [Ferreira] and Brandon [Henry, the head athletic trainer] were coming over to the house every day to check on me.

“It’s been great, right up to the top with John [Henry] and Sam [Kennedy] and Tom [Werner].”