FORT MYERS, FLA. – Brian Dozier walked around the Twins clubhouse Sunday morning sounding a new duck call he had made out of one of his old bats. He’d prefer a buck call.
Dozier will become a free agent this fall if he doesn’t agree to a contract extension with the team, and he said he has had no discussions with the front office.
“I don’t want to touch too much on this, it’s the thing that gets asked all the time, but at the same time, I will be a free agent this fall,” he said. “That’s the bottom line. You can only say you want to be here so much, and nothing gets done.
“That’s just the way it is. I understand everything. At the same time, you’re six months away from free agency. That’s intriguing.”
He is surrounded by excellent young prospects in the Twins lineup, but Dozier was an eighth-round draft pick who had to slowly turn himself into a star. In the past three years, he has made an All-Star team, won a Gold Glove and earned MVP votes.
Last year, he became the fifth Twin and first Minnesota middle infielder to hit 30 or more home runs in consecutive seasons. He has hit 76 over the past two years. Last winter, the Twins reportedly considered trading him but didn’t find a worthwhile market.
This winter, the Twins did not move to extend the contract of their most proven quality player, who went 2-for-3 with two doubles in the Twins’ 9-3 loss to Pittsburgh on Sunday at Hammond Stadium.
“There have not been any talks about exploring an extension,” he said. “We’ll see what happens, but at the same time you can only wait so long and then it’s all just focusing on the season and getting yourself ready to win. I’m a firm believer, man, I don’t put too much into all that kind of stuff. I go with the flow and let things take care of themselves.”
Early in spring training, the Twins played top shortstop prospect Nick Gordon at second base. The Twins have depth at the middle infield positions with Jorge Polanco, Gordon and Royce Lewis.
They could save money by allowing Dozier to leave. He will earn $9 million this season.
Or they could trade him this summer if they fall out of contention. Or they could open negotiations this summer if Dozier proves to be invaluable and willing.
Dozier clearly sees himself leaving in the fall, and does not sound bothered by baseball’s unwillingness to sign a slew of free agents this winter.
“I think teams have gotten a lot smarter, and they really break down the numbers,” he said. “The biggest thing in free agency is really making sure agents know their players’ value, and that their players understand that.
“And how teams are evaluating players — that if you hit 30 home runs and drive in 80 and you’re one-dimensional and your WAR is a .8 you aren’t going to get paid like players used to. If you’ve had a high WAR for many years, I think you’ll do all right.”
WAR stands for Wins Above Replacement, an attempt to measure how many more victories a player would produce for his team over 162 games than a player pulled from the bench or the minor leagues.
Free-agent third baseman Mike Moustakas hit 38 home runs last year with Kansas City. His WAR, according to Baseball Reference, was 1.8. He remains unsigned. Dozier’s WAR has been 6.5 and 4.4 the past two seasons.
“I think my better years are ahead of me, because of the way I feel and what I put into my body,” Dozier said.
He grew up in Mississippi, where most foods are fried or covered in sauce or gravy.
“Four years ago, I was always achy, always dealing with fatigue during the season,” he said. “Now I treat food as fuel, and that’s it.”
Saturday night, his wife made him chickpea pasta with vegetables, turkey and marinara sauce.
“I never have a nice dinner anymore, which is stupid,” he said, laughing. “But a lot of the food I used to eat disgusts me now.”
He didn’t complain about the lack of contract negotiations. He just sounded hungry.