In our “Who starts at second base” post from this weekend, we pointed out that one of the options is to acquire a starting second baseman via trade. Let’s now take a look at a player that could easily be a target of the Pirates—Twins power-hitting second baseman Brian Dozier.
First, let’s talk about Dozier. The 29-year-old had a career year this summer, belting 42 home runs along with 35 doubles on rout to a season in which he slugged .546. He tied with Nolan Arenado for third in MLB in extra-base hits (82) and ranked third in the AL in homers. His entire slash line was solid at .268/.340/.546 for an .886 OPS. Dozier made Twins history becoming the first second baseman in franchise history to hit 40+ home runs and is just the fourth second baseman ever to hit 40 or more homers, joining a list that includes Ryne Sandberg, Rogers Hornsby and Davey Johnson. Two Hall of Famers and a four-time All-Star. While Dozier’s numbers across the board spiked this season, he’s always shown power throughout his career, hitting 18, 23 and 28 dingers the past three seasons and now has four-straight seasons of 30+ doubles as well. Unlike Travis Snider, this guy is actually “dripping with power.” There’s no guarantee he’ll reach a 40-HR season again like 2016, but if he hits 30+ from second base for a couple years with a .240-.250 average, who wouldn’t take that? Dozier also hit half of his home runs at spacious Target Field, which is no joke, and pulled most of his HRs to left field, which PNC Park’s short LF pole of 325′ to the rotunda could be nice for him.
He’s not just a hitter either, Dozier provided a solid glove at second with a 0.8 dWAR at the position and a +3 defensive runs saved in 2016 and a +7 mark in his career at second. Overall, he put together a 6.5 WAR this past season and has 18.4 in his career. He’s signed through 2018 and is completely affordable (even by Pirates standards) at $6M next year and $9M in 2018. He’s dependable as well, playing in an average of 154 games since 2013 and provides nice speed with 51 stolen bases in the past three seasons. He walked at a decent 8.8% rate, struck out 20% of the time, but not at a crippling rate like other power hitters. Dozier is affordable, dependable, speedy, has elite power and is in the prime of his career.
Now let’s discuss why it makes sense for both teams. Dozier was a bright spot on an otherwise pitiful Twins team. Their pitching staff was historically bad as the Twins stumbled to a 103-loss season that saw longtime GM Terry Ryan fired before the trade deadline. The Twins have very little in terms of pitching prospects and their number one prospect Jose Berrios had an 8.02 ERA in 14 starts. So it’s not hard to figure out the possible match here—what do the Twins desperately need? Pitching. What do the Pirates need for the middle of their OBP-based lineup? Power. What do the Pirates have an abundance of currently? Pitching. The Pirates were 12th in the National League with 153 home runs, 20+ homers fewer than league average. After watching a lineup get on-base at the third best clip in the NL and continue to leave guys on base in big spots, imagine what a boost a potential 30-40 HR guy in the middle of the lineup would be.
Dozier is signed through two more seasons and with the current rotation the Twins employ, they won’t be competing in two years. Dozier is coming off a career year and Minnesota needs talent elsewhere, so trading Dozier for other pieces is the new GM’s best move this offseason.
So what do you give up exactly? If the Pirates could trade Chad Kuhl and/or one of the higher end pitching prospects like Mitch Keller and another mid-level prospect, I think you make that deal. Problem is, what if the Twins ask for Tyler Glasnow or Jameson Taillon? While I have an issue trading either for just two years of Dozier, if the Pirates acquire a top-to-middle of the rotation pitcher back, it might make a Taillon for Dozier deal a little easier to swallow. We have no way of knowing what the Twins would ask for or what the price tag for Dozier around the league would be, but would you trade Taillon or Kuhl/Keller for Dozier? At the very least, it’s worth a phone call to the Twins.