A Re-Do On Dozier For Minnesota
Image courtesy of © Adam Hunger-USA TODAY SportsAt the time of his deal, a four-year, $20 million pact, Dozier looked like a manageable extension for an up-and-coming second basemen. My initial thoughts were that both sides came out for the better, but that the Twins could find themselves getting bitten in the end by not buying into his free agent years. Here we are now, approaching the 2018 season, and Dozier is unsigned going into 2019. If the Twins could do it all over again, I’m not certain a six-year deal wouldn’t have made more sense.
Dating back to 2013, only the Houston Astros Jose Altuve has posted a higher fWAR (23.9) than the Twins two-bagger. Dozier is the only second basemen with more than 100 (127) homers in that time, and the next closest player is the Seattle Mariners Robinson Cano (97). Dozier’s walk rate is second among players at the position with at least 1,500 plate appearances in that span, and his wOBA is fourth, trailing only Altuve, Daniel Murphy and Cano. In short, since becoming a big league regular in 2013, he’s been no worse than a top three second basemen in the entire game.
Over the life of his current contract (2015 onward), Dozier has been worth 14.1 fWAR. To date, he’s been paid just $11 million of the total $20 million deal (leaving $9 million for 2018). In terms of dollars, Fangraphs quantifies his production having been worth $113.1 million through the life of his contract. By that metric alone, the Twins have recouped over ten times their investment in the player that the Southern Mississippi star has become.
In 2018, Dozier will be playing at the age of 31, meaning he’ll hit free agency at 32. Thus far in his career, he has 1,249 games under his belt in the professional ranks. He’s played at least 147 of the possible 162 games in a season dating back to 2013, and his durability is something that’s been noted plenty. Going forward, it’s fair to question whether or not that level of availability will stick with him. As a late-blooming prospect however, his prime appears to have fallen further into his time in the big leagues.
There’s no doubt that Derek Falvey and Thad Levine will have some positional juggling to do in 2018 and beyond, but having Dozier force the situation could’ve been in the best interest of the hometown nine. It’s uncertain as to whether or not Jorge Polanco can stick at shortstop, and there’s a question as to how long Miguel Sano can play third base. We don’t know what Nick Gordon, Wander Javier or Royce Lewis will produce, and it’s hard to pinpoint exact readiness regarding any number of these scenarios. What’s probably more than fair to assume however, is that right now, Minnesota would likely prefer to not have to be making the Dozier decision. Had the former regime offered a contract to age 33 or 34, the dollars would’ve risen some in exchange for free agent years, but the Twins current decisions would likely be much simpler.
As things stand, the Dozier camp and Minnesota enter 2018 with what I’d presume to be two separate ideas of what’s next. The Twins preference should be along the lines of a two or three year deal to avoid hitting the skids on the back end. As an older free agent, Dozier can likely see this is his last opportunity to cash in, and a five or six year offering would be mighty enticing.
Nothing over the past handful of seasons has suggested that regression is coming for the Twins All-Star second basemen. He’s among the best power hitters in the game, and he does it at a position not otherwise known for that kind of production. If Dozier puts up the “contract year boost” the numbers could be otherworldly, and the Twins would certainly stand to benefit.
Whatever happens, I think the takeaway here is that while hindsight may be 20/20, a bit more commitment up front will look like a good thing. Dozier is going to have the Twins asking some tough questions of themselves at whatever point they begin to negotiate, and at this stage in the game, it’s hard to know if anyone has the definitive answers.
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