Turner is latest ex-Nat to sign mega deal with NL East rival

SAN DIEGO – Another former Nationals star is signing another mega deal with another division rival.

Trea Turner has agreed to an 11-year, $300 million contract with the Phillies, as first reported by ESPN and confirmed by multiple other outlets. It’s a huge payout for the free agent shortstop, now under contract through the 2033 season, during which he will turn 40.

In Philadelphia, Turner reunites with Bryce Harper (still under contract and due to earn $242 million through the 2031 season), not to mention Kyle Schwarber and hitting coach Kevin Long, all of them former Nationals.

And thus did yet another National League East rival lock up yet another former Nats star, leading to yet another decade of awkward return trips to South Capitol Street, where a demoralized fan base will have to decide whether to cheer or boo a once-beloved player who chose to sign long-term with a rival.

All of this came on the same day the Mets reportedly signed Justin Verlander to a two-year, $86 million deal, reuniting the two-time Cy Young Award winner with three-time Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer. The two previously were teammates in Detroit; now they headline the rotation in Queens, where the pressure to win the franchise’s first World Series since 1986 will be immense.

It’s become routine, sadly, for the Nationals to watch this unfold before their eyes. They’ve now seen three players from their 2018 roster (Turner, Harper, Anthony Rendon) eventually sign deals worth at least $245 million with other clubs, plus Scherzer sign for $43 million per year with the Mets. The only star player from that roster to stay in D.C. long-term was Stephen Strasburg, whose $245 million contract now hangs around their neck like an albatross as they attempt to rebuild the organization through a revamped farm system.

The Nats, of course, will always have their 2019 World Series title, with everyone from that list but Harper playing a key role in making it happen. That perhaps lessens to some extent the sting of all the subsequent departures.

But it won’t make the next several years enjoyable to watch.

It also underscores the massive challenge the Nationals now face to try to climb back into contention in an NL East that features two franchises (Mets, Phillies) willing to spend wildly in search an elusive championship, plus another model organization (Braves) that won the World Series in 2021 and has managed to lock up most of its core group of young players long before any could reach free agency.

Turner long expressed a desire to stay in D.C. his entire career, but he and the Nationals had far different views on how much he was worth. Turner and his agency, CAA, believed he deserved a deal within the range of the one another elite shortstop (Francisco Lindor) got from the Mets: 10 years, $341 million.

The Nats never came close to approaching those numbers, concerned Turner’s skills wouldn’t hold up as well once he reached his 30s. They wound up including him with Scherzer in the blockbuster 2021 trade deadline deal that kicked off the organization’s roster teardown, sending those two to the Dodgers for four prospects, including Keibert Ruiz and Josiah Gray.

Turner continued to produce at a high level during his 1 1/3 seasons in Los Angeles. Now he’s set to spend the rest of his career in Philadelphia, making regular returns to Washington as yet another former Nationals star now playing for a division rival.

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