Brian Dozier was drafted by the Twins, developed by the Twins, thrived with the Twins and went to the playoffs with the Twins.
But with an expiring contract on a team with a losing record, he knew his time in Minnesota was coming to an end.
The Twins sent Dozier to the Los Angeles Dodgers less than an hour before the trade deadline Tuesday, capping a whirlwind five days in which Twins Chief Baseball Officer Derek Falvey and General Manager Thad Levine traded five key players.
“There were a lot of emotions going through my mind — Derek and Thad called me in and we had a nice conversation,” Dozier said by phone from the Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport, where he was set to board a plane for Los Angeles to get to the Dodgers’ game against Milwaukee. “The past few days, I kind of expected it to happen. But when the time actually came, that’s when the emotions started coming in, because I didn’t know what to think of beforehand.
“There are sad emotions of saying goodbye … but there’s another emotion is that it’s exciting. Sometimes change is good. Going to a first-place team, which can be exciting.”
Dozier was an All-Star and a Gold Glove Award winner during his seven seasons with the Twins, and hit 42 home runs two seasons ago, a record for an American League second baseman.
“One thing I didn’t accomplish, going back to the postseason with the Twins,” said Dozier, who plans to deliver a personal message to Twins fans in the coming days. “That’s upsetting and disappointing for myself.”
The Twins traded Eduardo Escobar, Ryan Pressly, Zach Duke and Lance Lynn in recent days, receiving a total of nine prospects, but Falvey knew dealing Dozier would touch nerves all over Twins Territory.
“He’s been a meaningful part of this franchise, and I think this was a real opportunity for him to go to a club right now that, the Dodgers played in the World Series last year and have a chance, they feel like with their roster, to get right back there and maybe finish it off this time around,” Falvey said. “This was the right time to make that decision and acquire some real talent that will help us continue to build to what we hope is a championship future.”
In return for Dozier, the Twins continued their hoarding of prospects by adding outfielder Luke Raley and lefthander Devin Smeltzer — as well as major league veteran Logan Forsythe.
Raley, 23, rated as the Dodgers’ 19th-best prospect, is batting .275 at Class AA Tulsa with 17 home runs and 53 RBI in 93 games.
“He’s really developed into that power the last year-plus,” Falvey said. “He’s somebody we think going to Double-A is not unlike a Brent Rooker. He really gives us a chance to add some power to our lineup.”
Smeltzer, 22, went 5-5 with a 4.73 ERA in 23 games (14 starts) for Tulsa. He was drafted in the fifth round in 2016 out of Florida Gulf Coast University. New Twins farm director Jeremy Zoll came over from the Dodgers organization and is familiar with both.
Forsythe, 31, is batting .207 with two home runs and 13 RBI in 70 games while playing second, third and one game at first. Forsythe and Dozier each are making $9 million this season, which helps the Dodgers in their quest to avoid a luxury tax.
The Dodgers traded for Forsythe before the 2017 season when they could not pry Dozier away from the Twins. Los Angeles finally got its man on Tuesday.
“And you have to think of that when you are traded,” Dozier said, “and one team in this case, the Dodgers, really wanted me and have for a couple of years. It’s an exciting feeling.”
Forsythe will play, but Ehire Adrianza started at second on Tuesday and will get looks there as well. Once rosters can expand on Sept. 1, top prospect Nick Gordon, a former first-round pick, should play there as well.
Dozier hugged teammates and encouraged them to keep fighting, because the unexpected can happen. But the clubhouse had a different look on Tuesday as Matt Belisle was moved into Duke’s spot and Jorge Polanco dressed between where Dozier and Escobar held court.
And more moves could happen before the Aug. 31 deadline, provided that players clear waivers. Ervin Santana and Fernando Rodney could be targets by then, although the Twins have expressed interest in bringing Rodney back next season. They could be more goodbye hugs in a couple of weeks.
“I was thinking about it today, you know,” first baseman Joe Mauer said. “I spend more time with these guys than I do my family. So we lost a couple brothers today. But we’ll figure it out. The game doesn’t slow down or stop for anybody.”