Dodgers, Twins match up well on potential Brian Dozier deal

I wrote about some potential second base upgrades the Dodgers could explore on Halloween. Since then, there has been reported interest in three main guys: Brian Dozier, Logan Forsythe and Ian Kinsler. Coincidentally or not, they were the top three on my list.

The interest in Forsythe and Kinsler make the most sense since they’re probably the easier of the three to acquire, but Dozier is an interesting trade candidate as well.

Here’s what I wrote about Dozier a month ago:

“Before the second half of 2016, this acquisition would have been a lot easier. Dozier, 30, hit .246/.335/.450 with a 110 wRC+ in the first half. That isn’t bad by any standard, but he completely exploded in the second half to the tune of a .291/.344/.646(!) triple slash and a 156 wRC+. He ended up with 42 home runs for the hapless Twins and was nearly a 6-win player. He was also the most productive hitter against left-handed pitching of any second baseman in baseball.

Defensively, he was perfectly average. He was adept at turning double plays, turning the third-most (111) of any second baseman in baseball behind Rougned Odor (120) and Jonathan Schoop (115), and Dozier had a 3 DRS and a 0.2 UZR/150.

Dozier might be the perfect fit in terms of high-upside offense, dominance against lefties and solid defense. The only problem is, he’s going to cost a ton in trade. He’s signed to an incredibly team-friendly deal ($6 million in 2017, $9 million in 2018) and is coming off a career year. The Twins were the worst team in baseball and would surely entertain trading him, but they aren’t just going to give him away.”

The Twins are going to select No. 1 overall in June’s draft and don’t have enough established talent on the MLB roster to be a big factor in the competitive American League Central. Selling high on Dozier makes a ton of sense from their perspective.

Here’s what some Twins folks have been chatting about on Twitter of late regarding the Dodgers and Dozier.

Brandon Warne expanded on his idea in an article on Tuesday night.

From the article:

“If the Twins are targeting a position player in return for Dozier — and hot take alert: they probably should be — Bellinger would absolutely be atop their list. Other players who make sense on the position side of things are outfielders Andrew Toles (.870 OPS, five-plus years of control) and Trayce Thompson (Klay’s brother, .792 MLB OPS through two seasons, five years of control). If the Dodgers deem the cost of Bellinger to be too steep — and that is certainly possible — one of those outfielders would make some sense for the Twins as well.”

And:

“There’s ample pitching in the Dodgers system as well, and what team needs pitching more than the Twins, who were dead last in rotation ERA in 2016. The names that dot the list here are Jose De Leon, Yadier Alvarez, Walker Buehler, Jordan Sheffield.”

All those players make a lot of sense if the Twins are looking to get the most out of their All-Star second baseman.

Mike Bernadino, a Twins beat writer, chimed in with his thoughts on a potential trade.

That’s a lot to sift through. Regardless, the two of the names I’d be hesitant to include? Cody Bellinger and Yadier Alvarez.

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Dozier’s 2016 season was remarkable, but the massive power surge is not in line with his career. That said, Dozier does have above-average power — a .196 ISO for his career (.185 if you take out his 2016 number). That’s difficult production to get from some corner players, let alone a second baseman (who plays above-average defense). He probably doesn’t get to 42 home runs or a nearly .280 ISO again, but he should be good for 20-25 home runs and a .185-plus ISO — great production from a second baseman. Oh, and he had a 150 wRC+ against left-handed pitching, and we know how much the Dodgers struggled against southpaws in 2016.

A further dive into Dozier’s 2016 season shows some interesting numbers. In terms of his walk rate, it remained virtually the same from the season before, as did most of his plate discipline numbers.

Peripheral 2015 2016
BB% 8.7 8.8
O-Swing% 29.7 29.1
Z-Swing% 64.3 63.9
Contact% 79.8 79.0
SwStr% 9.0 9.1

He had an incredible power surge while keeping most of his numbers in line with the previous season. He swung at fewer pitches overall and posted a career-worsts in contact rate and swinging strike percentage, but the numbers are not discouraging. Of the eight players who hit 40 or more home runs, Dozier had the second-lowest swinging strike rate and second-highest contact rate. That bodes well for him. Despite his power-hitting ways, he still made plenty of contact and actually reduced his strikeout rate by 1 percent to an acceptable 20 percent.

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Now, let’s circle back and talk cost. The Twins would be well within their right to ask for guys like Bellinger and Alvarez, but I don’t think either of them would be in play in a Dozier deal. Bellinger took another big step forward in 2016 and the Dodgers have almost $32 million invested in Alvarez. If Dozier were under team control for more than two years, I’d probably feel differently, but he’s not.

Here are the remaining players who were mentioned above:

  • Walker Buehler
  • Jose De Leon
  • Gavin Lux
  • Yasiel Puig
  • Jordan Sheffield
  • Andrew Toles
  • Trayce Thompson

Of the seven, I’d be most reluctant to move Buehler, but the Twins could easily land three of those players in exchange for Dozier. I like all the packages suggested above, though I don’t think the Dodgers would trade — nor would the Twins want — two of Puig, Toles and Thompson. They should be able to land one of the trio of outfielders and a pitcher, and that leaves one more player. Maybe a low-level guy like Lux or Sheffield along with De Leon and Thompson would do the trick. Maybe Puig and De Leon would be enough. Trade candidates aren’t limited to the players on this list, but they do all make a lot of sense for the Twins. Guys like Willie Calhoun, Brock Stewart and others could also interest Minnesota.

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There seems to be a pretty good fit here for both clubs. The Dodgers need a second baseman, and they could use an offensive upgrade overall. With most of the other positions settled, and with Yoenis Cespedes re-signing with the Mets on Tuesday and guys like Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion not fitting the Dodgers’ needs, there aren’t many places left to upgrade with a hitter outside of second base. Going for one of the best available ones makes a lot of sense.

The Twins should be going for a full-on rebuild, which means moving Dozier now and bolstering their minor-league system is a no-brainer. They’ll also need players at the MLB level, which is why guys like Puig, Thompson and Toles would interest them.

We’ll see what happens. One way or another, I’d be awfully surprised if second base isn’t significantly upgraded for the 2017 season.

About Dustin Nosler

Dustin Nosler

Dustin Nosler began writing about the Dodgers in July 2009 at his blog, Feelin’ Kinda Blue. He co-hosts a weekly podcast with Jared Massey called Dugout Blues. He is a contributor/editor at The Hardball Times. He graduated from California State University, Sacramento, with his bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in digital media. While at CSUS, he worked for the student-run newspaper The State Hornet for three years, culminating with a 1-year term as editor-in-chief. He resides in Stockton, Calif., and has yet to be shot.