Brian Dozier had established himself as the Twins second baseman with productive seasons in 2013 and 2014. The media covering spring training in March 2015 was summoned to the makeshift interview room in the lower level of Hammond Stadium in Fort Myers, Fla. to discover that Dozier, then 27, had been signed to a multiyear contract.
The deal was four years, $20 million, with the Twins purchasing Dozier's three seasons of arbitration eligibility in the process. There was some early wonderment as to what was the hurry to give this contract to Dozier, but it wound up saving the Twins significant dollars when you consider this:
He could have been taking 28 home runs to arbitration after the 2015 season, a second-base record of 42 home runs to arbitration after 2016, and 34 home runs after 2017. Throw in four straight seasons of 100 runs scored, and RBI totals of 99 and 93 in 2016-17, and the question had become:
How are the Twins going to get Dozier signed to an extension before he becomes a free agent as a 31-year-old in the fall of 2018?
Terry Ryan's baseball organization had signed Dozier to the contract in 2015 and now Derek Falvey and his large group of analysts and prognosticators were making the decisions.
And by early in the 2018 season, it was apparent the Twins' "how'' on signing Dozier had become "they aren't.'' He was traded to the L.A. Dodgers at the July 31 deadline, for the modest return of pitcher Devin Smeltzer, outfielder Luke Raley and second baseman Logan Forsythe.
Dozier was making $9 million that season. He didn't hit for the Dodgers, but Washington equaled that $9 million salary for Dozier as a free agent for 2019.
I was in Nationals Park as a spectator in early July. Dozier received a fine reception from the customers on a steamy day, and then he hit his 15th home run of the season.
That year ended with a championship ring for Dozier, although he had been supplanted by a platoon of Howie Kendrick and Asdrubal Cabrera at second base by the time the Nats outlasted Houston in a fabulous World Series.
During the pandemic season of 2020, Dozier was released twice, played in only seven games for the Mets, and went home to Hattiesburg, Miss. to be with his wife Renee, daughter Reece, not yet 2, and joined by son Rip on Dec. 19.
A player who in a former time would have been signing a contract extension in the spring of 2018 to stick around into the next decade at sizable dollars appeared to face two options for 2021:
Accept a minor league deal with an invite to spring training, or give it up. On Thursday, Dozier went with the second option and officially retired, three months before his 34th birthday.
Twins communications director Dustin Morse arranged a fine Zoom send-off for the third-best second baseman in Twins history, behind Rod Carew (before a move to first base) and Chuck Knoblauch.
Trevor Plouffe was a Twins' infield partner with Dozier. He didn't have Dozier's resume, but there was a season when he was close to the Twins' MVP. He had experience and some pop in the bat, and yet he spent most of the 2018 season in Class AAA, and then he was done at 32.
"The front offices today, you get into your 30s, you are not getting paid on what you did a couple of years ago,'' Plouffe said. "You are getting paid on projections. And if the projections say you are declining, you're not getting one of those spots on a 40-man roster.
"You can feel great. I feel great right now, and this will be my third year not playing. But getting the bat to the ball, bat speed, it's a difference of 'this much.'"
Plouffe was on a FaceTime call from California. He held an index finger and thumb a couple of inches apart and said: "If the analytics show that you're now this much late — and you're not going to get better with age, right? — then you're gone.''
Trevor then looked into his phone and said: "When it came down to it at the end of my career, the real issue was, I wasn't good enough anymore.''
Plouffe is now an investor and a podcast contributor to Jomboy Media, a growing, online enterprise that is one of the few trying to bring baseball content to a young audience.
"I was in camp with the Phillies in 2019 and they wanted me to go to Triple-A,'' Plouffe said. "I said, 'I'm going home to my wife and two kids.' I haven't talked to 'Dosz' yet, but I'm sure staying home with Renee and the two little ones was the best option for him.
"It's great, I'm happy. I'm with my family. I'm involved with Jomboy and talking baseball. It was over. I wasn't good enough.''