The Twins have adopted the correct approach to Brian Dozier. They are absolutely not going to trade him unless they trade him, in which case they were going to trade him all along.
Lately, the new front office has tried to becalm Dozier with indications that he will not be dealt any time soon. This is likely true and likely a truth of convenience because they aren’t receiving worthwhile offers.
To summarize their position: They should trade him for three can’t-miss prospects, at least two of whom need to be pitchers, which probably won’t happen soon if ever, so of course they should keep him.
The logic behind the Twins trading their best player is that they were terrible with him at his best and they can be terrible with him again, so they may as well use him to bolster the most important position in baseball.
The Twins desperately need starting pitching. Dozier is the only tradeable asset that will bring quality pitching.
Often, this argument is buttressed by one of the best trades in franchise history. In 1998, Twins General Manager Terry Ryan traded Chuck Knoblauch to the Yankees for Cristian Guzman, Eric Milton and Brian Buchanan.
That trade began a series of moves that led to a decade of success. But that trade — of an excellent second baseman for prospects — isn’t as analogous to a potential Dozier trade as you would think.
Knoblauch was making $6 million a year. Dozier will make $6 million this year. But the dollars are not comparable in real-world value or context.
The Twins payroll in 1997 was $32 million. In 1998, it was $22 million, as owner Carl Pohlad reacted to an impasse in stadium negotiations by opting for “studio baseball” — paying the minimum to field a team.
The Twins payroll in 2016 was roughly $105 million.
The 1998 Twins preferred not to afford Knoblauch. The 2017 Twins can easily afford Dozier.
The second difference between the two is temperment. Knoblauch was a brilliant player who had made enemies throughout the franchise with his behavior. Dozier is a welcomed presence in the clubhouse and organization.
In 1998, Twins ownership was considering moving or contracting — or at least considering threatening moving or contracting — as a way of spurring stadium talks. The fan base was apathetic and happy to avoid spending summer nights under a Teflon roof watching bad baseball.
Today, the Twins fan base is more apoplectic than apathetic. Fans are livid that the Twins followed a decade of competitiveness with a decade of incompetence. While it would be silly for anyone to assume that a new ballpark would ensure success, fans feel that continued success was implied in the Twins’ stadium pitch.
The Twins roster begs a renewed rebuilding effort. The Twins’ position in the marketplace demands an immediate recovery.
The front offices, too, worked under different parameters. Ryan had performed poorly as a GM in his first three seasons. The Yankees probably weren’t expecting Ryan to pluck two minor-leaguers from their system who would become All-Stars.
The Knoblauch trade began a stretch of seven years in which Ryan and his staff persistently chose excellent players from the lower minor leagues of other organizations. Ryan snuck up on the Yankees and made a transformative deal.
New baseball bosses Derek Falvey and Thad Levine are new to their jobs and the rest of baseball senses desperation. The perception is that Falvey and Levine have to trade Dozier, yet Falvey and Levine can’t afford to botch their first deal, setting a precedent for future negotiations.
In theory, the Twins should trade Dozier and build a pitching staff that might enable them to contend in two or three years.
In the current reality, Falvey and Levine will have trouble trading Dozier for proper value.
Given the uncertain long-term health and progress of most pitching prospects, the Twins might get lucky and fail to make a trade. Keeping their best player and best personality might do more for their franchise than treating him like a latter-day Knoblauch.
Jim Souhan’s podcast can be heard at MalePatternPodcasts.com On Twitter: @SouhanStrib Email: email@example.com