The Twins have been listening to offers for All-Star second baseman Brian Dozier for several weeks — but not much longer, it appears.
The club would like interested teams to step up with their best offer in the coming days, or they plan to prepare for the 2017 season with Dozier as their second baseman, according to a source with knowledge of negotiations.
The Twins don’t want to go too far into January without clarity concerning their All-Star second baseman. They could wait to move Dozier before the trade deadline.
Several teams have inquired about Dozier, with steady discussions throughout the offseason.
It wasn’t that long ago — 19 years — that the Twins were looking to trade another All-Star second baseman.
They did fine then, sending Chuck Knoblauch to the Yankees for four players and cash. Two of those four, shortstop Cristian Guzman and lefthander Eric Milton, were named to All-Star teams and helped the Twins reach the postseason in 2002, 2003 and 2004 (Milton was traded after the 2003 season). A third, Brian Buchanan, was moved to San Diego for shortstop Jason Bartlett.
This situation is different. The Twins were motivated then to move Knoblauch, who was productive but also a pain in the keister. They are not as motivated to move Dozier, the face of the franchise. They have made their demands and are not budging.
Dozier, 29, is coming off a season in which he set career highs in batting average (.268), on base-plus-slugging percentage (.886), home runs (42) and RBI (99). He’s in the prime of his career and is making only $15 million over the next two seasons.
Dozier’s value has never been higher, so there is some risk if the Twins keep him and he is unable to reproduce his escalating power numbers. (This is the same player who was batting .184 with three homers on May 1, let’s not forget.)
The Twins believe Dozier can help turn things around following an 103-loss season. But honestly, any turnaround will hinge on better pitching, which the Twins could acquire by dealing Dozier.
After speaking with several sources, this is what the Twins are facing:
The Dodgers have long been interested in Dozier, and have righthanded prospect Jose De Leon to anchor any deal. De Leon has a mid-90s fastball, good changeup and developing slider. Their other top prospect is first baseman Cody Bellinger, who could step in after Joe Mauer’s contract is up after 2018.
Cuban righthander Yadier Alvarez has a mid-90s fastball that can touch 100 and a quality slider.
The Twins have been pushing for De Leon plus another prospect, but the Dodgers haven’t blinked.
Los Angeles needs Dozier. The Dodgers struggled against lefthanded pitching last season, posting a .622 on-base-plus-slugging percentage vs. .772 against righthanders. And having offense at second base is more of a necessity than a luxury. For the first time, OPS for second basemen (.753) was higher than it was for outfielders (.748) last season.
Other options for the Dodgers would be to go after Ian Kinsler or Logan Forsythe. Dozier, at $6 million, will earn less than Kinsler ($11 million) or Forsythe ($7 million) next season.
The Giants have expressed interest but don’t have a strong farm system. They might have to bring in a third team to execute a deal. And they likely would have Dozier play third base with former Twin Eduardo Nunez used in the outfield. We know what Nunez looks like in the outfield.
There’s been some debate whether or not the Cardinals might want to make a deal. I’ve been told they have informed the Twins they have young pitching available. Righthander Alex Reyes is their best prospect. He throws in the mid to upper 90s with a hard curve and a changeup. He was 4-1 with a 1.57 ERA in 12 games during a late season call-up. Indications are that the Cardinals are reluctant to put him in play. The same for catching prospect Carson Kelly. Ironically, Dozier would solidify a position recently manned by Kolten Wong, whom the Twins drafted out of high school but failed to sign.
Washington has been connected to the Twins, but the Nationals dealt three pitching righthanders — including top prospect Lucas Giolito — to the White Sox earlier this month for Adam Eaton. And the Braves and Atlanta are among other teams that have inquired about Dozier.
If the Twins were willing to accept a one-for-one swap for Dozier, he probably already would be out of town. The Twins’ idea of fair value is much greater than that, and they show no signs of lowering their demands.
After all, they received four players the last time they went through this.
La Velle E. Neal III firstname.lastname@example.org