A pitcher for the Marlins who was part of a previous rebuild in Miami now finds himself in the middle of another.
For Jacob Turner, there is a certain sense of déjà vu.
“It’s interesting to be back,” Turner said. “It’s almost kind of the same.”
Six years ago, when the Marlins were in the process of dumping salary and tearing down the roster, they acquired Turner and catcher Rob Brantly in a trade with Detroit.
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Turner, a former first-round draft pick, arrived with high expectations.
But he never fulfilled them, and two years later the Marlins traded him on the cheap, thus beginning an odyssey that took Turner to the Cubs, White Sox and Nationals, and now back to Miami again.
Turner has played for five different organizations in seven years.
“I’ve tried to take the positives from each place I’ve been to and, obviously, I’ve been from here to both Chicagos and then Washington,” he said. “But it’s my journey.”
Because Turner is only 26, the Marlins feel he can provide value to a starting rotation that lacks definition beyond Dan Straily and Jose Ureña.
“It’s what we think is there,” manager Don Mattingly said of Turner. “[He’s a] guy that’s been around a little bit and is still young, and still the ball comes out of his hand.”
The Tigers drafted Turner with the ninth overall pick in the 2009 amateur draft, the same draft in which Stephen Strasburg was the top pick and Mike Trout went 25th.
But then came the summer of 2012, the year the Marlins moved into their new ballpark. All of the hype and fanfare surrounding that season, with top-dollar signings of Mark Buehrle and Jose Reyes, came to a sudden halt.
The Marlins were losing on the field and failing to fill seats, prompting the front office to jettison salary. On July 23, the Marlins made their first major move, dealing Omar Infante and Anibal Sanchez to the Tigers for Turner and Brantly.
Two days later, the Marlins traded Hanley Ramirez to the Dodgers. And shortly after the season ended, they sent Reyes, Buehrle and a handful of others to the Blue Jays in a blockbuster trade that marked another dismantling.
The Marlins went 62-100 in 2013 and Turner struggled along with everyone else, making 20 starts and going 3-8 with a 3.74 ERA. When he showed no signs of improvement in 2014, going 4-7 with a 5.97 ERA, the Marlins traded Turner to the Cubs.
In 2016, Turner found himself with the White Sox, and last season he played for Washington.
“Going to a few different teams, I’ve seen some of the game’s elite pitchers, and see what they do, how they go about it,” he said. “I think you can take bits and pieces of each guy’s game and say, ‘I think I can add that to my game.’ Or ‘I think that’s something he does that doesn’t work for me.’ That’s all a learning process.”
After new owners took over the Marlins and embarked on a rebuild of their own, Turner saw an opportunity, signing a minor-league deal and accepting their non-roster spring invite.
“There were openings and there was also a comfort level with knowing some people,” Turner said of his decision. “So that definitely played a role.”
Turner also liked the direction of the team.
“There’s opportunity, I think, with the new ownership group to really build something from the ground up,” Turner said. “Buying into that process was a big part of it, too. Hearing the new ownership group talk about it, I think what they’re doing — building from the ground up — is the way to go.”
The Marlins could provide Turner with a chance to finally establish his own career. He has a chance to be in the rotation to start the season.
As a pitcher, Turner said he’s older and wiser now than he was the first time he was with the Marlins.
“I have a lot better understanding of what I’m trying to accomplish when I’m on the mound,” Turner said. “I think that’s the biggest difference. I think sometimes when you come up so young, you don’t totally understand all the ins and outs of what it takes to be consistent at this level.”