I’m a self-depreciating Twins fan. I will unabashedly proclaim my love for the players on the team while at the same time punish myself by watching them play a full game of baseball. I’ve always had qualms with the ownership, but with the new duo of Derek Falvey and Thad Levine manning the helm, they seem to be dedicated to taking the team in the right direction. That being said: why the hell haven’t the Twins traded Brian Dozier yet?
Dozier is a very good player, and he’s essentially the face of the Twins franchise after a monster year where he hit 42 home runs. It’s understandable as to why most Twins fans would be sad to see him go. But, we need to be honest with ourselves. The Twins are a bad team, and it’s hard to believe they’ll be anything more than 70-75 win team this year. Last year, the Twins ranked 28th in the league in pitching in terms of WAR. Their ace, Ervin Santana, had one of the best seasons of his career, over-performing both his FIP and xFIP, with a 3.38 ERA. Phil Hughes‘ career could be in jeopardy after having surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome. Kyle Gibson was mediocre as always, and the rest of the staff was essentially a crap shoot. Hector Santiago was acquired at the deadline and was very, very bad. Jose Berrios had massive control problems and got knocked around a lot, raising some question as to whether or not he will be able stick in the majors (spoiler alert: I think he will). Their bullpen was nothing special either, as they lost Glen Perkins and watched players like Trevor May under-perform. This offseason, they’ve made no improvements to their pitching staff and have barely improved their offense, which was anemic last year. Barring a complete turn around, the Twins look like they’ll repeat their 2016 season. Trading Dozier now will allow the Twins to prepare for the future, when the core of their team will be Byron Buxton, Max Kepler, Miguel Sano, and Jose Berrios. Dozier is under contract until the end of the 2018 season, and almost certainly will not be around for the next competitive Twins team.
The general consensus was that the Twins and Dodgers were perfect matches to trade for Dozier. The Dodgers don’t have a second basemen and they have a stockpile of young talent, which the Twins can use to build for the future. The general consensus was that the two teams were stuck in a stalemate as to who would be included in a package centered around pitching prospect Jose de Leon. Reports varied from the fact that the Twins wanted another major piece along with de Leon; someone like Yadier Alvarez or Cody Bellinger, and the Dodgers simply were not willing to give two of their best prospects up for two years of Brian Dozier. The question is this: why were the Twins so unwilling to work a deal out with the Dodgers? Are they undervaluing de Leon? Are they unwilling to take a lesser prospect or a utility piece that the Dodgers already have, and if they are, why on earth are they doing that?
De Leon has always been shadowed by Julio Urias in the Dodgers system. This might be once of the reasons why the Twins might undervaluing de Leon. Additionally, de Leon’s showing in the major’s last year didn’t look so good. He made four starts for the Dodgers late in the year and got knocked around, giving up 2.65 HR/9 and sporting a 6.35 ERA. Both of these factor might cast some shadows of doubt on de Leon. But, de Leon is a special pitcher, as both Dave Cameron and Jeff Sullivan have pointed out in the past. He lead PCL (AAA) starters last year in K-BB%, and did the same the Texas League (AA) in 2015. This is a rare talent that the Twins could certainly use in their organization, it being devoid of pitching as it currently is. Jose Berrios has never matched these rates, and he was considered to be a “better” prospect than de Leon. Looking forward, the Twins don’t have a lot of pitching talent in their system. Both Kohl Stewart and Tyler Jay have had very underwhelming pro experiences so far. Stephen Gonsalves had a bit of a breakout last year and looks to be a solid 4-5 starter, but there is no ace upside in the Twins farm system. De Leon won’t necessarily be an ace, but he could be a solid 2-3 starter who has a track record of success in the minors. Adding a piece like this would be huge for the Twins, an organization who over that past few seasons, have had historically bad pitching staffs.
If the rumors are true that the Twins want another top-tier prospect like Bellinger or Alvarez, and that’s what’s preventing this trade from happening, I believe the Twins have lost their minds. Sure, getting a guy like Bellinger would be great for the Twins, but the Dodgers have plenty more lower tier prospects and currently big league pieces that the Twins could target instead. A couple pieces that come to mind are Brock Stewart and Trayce Thompson, two big league players that currently look like they’ll be on the outside of the Dodger’s 25-man roster. Brock Stewart is a 25 year old RHP with a low 90’s fastball with good fade and sink. He also mixes in a plus changeup and a sub-par slider. Stewart projects to be a 4 or 5 starter, which always has it’s value. Thompson is a right-handed outfieler with decent pop and speed. He hit 13 homers in 262 PA, and could slot right in to the Twins outfield and split some time in left with Eddie Rosario. Another potential piece that could be traded is Kike Hernandez, but that asking price could be a bit steep. If the Twins acquire either Stewart or Thompson, they’d be getting a young, roughly league average player along with de Leon, and that makes a lot of sense to me. As for prospects, Willie Calhoun seems like a good way to replace Dozier in the future. Calhoun is a stocky second basemen that can’t run at all and clobbers every pitch he sees. There are a lot of questions as to whether or not Calhoun can stick at 2nd. His inability to be mobile coupled with his weak arm means that Calhoun will more than likely have to either stick at 2nd or move to DH for an AL team. Calhoun represents a player that profiles similarly to Dozier and could help the team almost immediately by replacing him.
The only other rational I can think of for the Twins wanted to keep Dozier is the assumption that they will competitive in 2017 and 2018. Like I stated before, unless the Twins drastically improve, they will not be competitive in 2017. No metric in baseball would predict that. However, in 2018, there is a chance that the young core the Twins have in place could be peaking all over the place, and Dozier could help the team go places. The 2018 free agent market is stacked, and the Twins could add some pieces to their team to help them rise to the top. But, by that time, Dozier will be 32 years old and well past his prime. It’s highly unlikely that his power will remain at the same level it has been in the past few years. He may still be able to contribute, but he would more than likely be just a 2 to 3 win player, and that doesn’t help the Twins that much. If the Twins would be competitive in 2018, wouldn’t it make more sense for them to have de Leon and another piece that can actually contribute 3-4 wins instead? Even if the second piece in the trade doesn’t pan out, a 26 year old de Leon in would be much more valuable than a 32 year old declining Brian Dozier in 2018.