For the past month or so, it seemed almost inevitable that the Minnesota Twins would trade Brian Dozier to the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Dodgers had shown a willingness to part with pitching prospect Jose De Leon, per Jeff Passan. With Chase Utley a free agent, the Dodgers had a need for Dozier. With that fit and willingness to give up a top prospect, the Dodgers had two things going for them that the Cardinals did not. That does not seem to have prevented the Cardinals from showing interest in Brian Dozier, per Darren Wolfson, a reporter in Minnesota.
Dozier update: told LAD still very much in it. Here's the new wrinkle: STL very much in it, + Nats & Giants remain in dialogue. #MNTwins— Darren Wolfson (@DWolfsonKSTP) December 26, 2016
Wolfson indicated he didn’t know specifics regarding the Cardinals discussions. The Cardinals, specifically John Mozeliak, have spent the offseason discussing how well Wong fits what the Cardinals are trying to do to get better defensively. Kolten Wong and Brian Dozier play the same position. There are two main scenarios if the Cardinals are interested in Dozier.
In one scenario, Dozier comes into play second base and Wong is part of the trade to Minnesota. Dozier has two seasons of cheap control left for $15 million while Wong is controlled for five years at an even cheaper cost. Wong could be a part of a package to improve the Cardinals offense while Dozier is a roughly average defensive second baseman.
In another scenario, Kolten Wong is not part of this trade and Dozier is moved to third base for the Cardinals. Dozier played shortstop and second base in the minors with a tiny bit of third base sprinkled in, and when he came up to the majors in 2012, he did play a decent amount of shortstop. His days of shortstop are behind him, but he is fundamentally sound and should be able to handle third base.
In that second scenario, the Cardinals would then have Jhonny Peralta pushed out of playing time almost completely and Jedd Gyorko limited to platoon time with Wong at second base and getting some backup reps at shortstop and third base. The Cardinals could opt to include Gyorko in the trade in that scenario and/or move Peralta and his reasonable $10 million left on his contract.
Dozier isn’t really a perfect fit for the Cardinals but he does bring a solid bat and big power as essentially a rich man’s version of Gyorko. Dozier had one of the best seasons in recent history by a second baseman last season. Dozier has always been a major pull hitter, and he capitalized on that last season as explained by August Fagerstrom at FanGraphs.
In 2014, the first year in which he was an above-average hitter, there wasn’t a clear plan of attack. The swings were kind of all over the place, and even when he did swing inside, he too often swung low. In 2015, he became more aggressive, but he became more aggressive everywhere. Still too many swings on that outer third which led to ground balls and weak contact. And then you see this year. Pitchers are attacking Dozier low-and-away as often as ever, but he’s not biting. Instead, he’s focused all his attention toward that inner third. A pitcher’s approach against a batter only works if the batter lets it.
Busch Stadium has typically been a very difficult place for right-handed batters to hit homers. The Twins appear to be selling high on Dozier given a career year at age-30, but Dozier does represent an upgrade over the Cardinals options at second base or third base. How deep the Cardinals interest in Dozier remains to be seen. It’s tough to see the team beating an offer headlined by Jose De Leon, although it is possible the Twins have different valuations of prospects.
This is certainly an interesting development in the offseason for St. Louis. The team improved some by signing Dexter Fowler and Brett Cecil, but overall the team doesn’t look a whole lot better than the 86-win team that underperformed its talent level. Whether Kolten Wong or Luke Weaver were involved, the cost would be high, but wouldn’t need Alex Reyes, who seems to be pretty close to untouchable.
Dozier represents an interesting gambit int he hopes he could repeat his 2016 season. He’s not an ideal candidate for a major upgrade for the Cardinals as other pieces would have to move, and the Cardinals would be hoping for a repeat of his career year. It might not be exactly what I hoped for this offseason, but it is in the same ballpark.