Dozier’s Days Numbered, Then What?
Image courtesy of © Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY SportsA late-bloomer, Dozier didn’t reach the big leagues until 25, and he was initially cast as a shortstop. We saw how that went, and he was quickly sent over to second base. Fast forward two more years, and the 28 year-old was a first time All-Star while being arguably the best power-hitting two-bagger in the sport. Since then, he’s won a Gold Glove and picked up progressing numbers of MVP votes each season. 2018 has hardly been a great start for the Twins star, but it follows along the same path he has blazed plenty of times to this point.
Now well into July, Dozier is beginning to do Brian-like things, and his second half surge appears to have started. Despite just a .732 OPS on the season, he’s got a .905 mark across his last 21 games. If you shrink the sample size down to just the month of July, Brian is hitting .317/.378/.683 with seven extra-base hits (four home runs) across 11 games. In short, it’s a great time for him to be going well.
After being the subject of trade talks two winters ago, Minnesota wisely decided that their premium player was worth more than the Jose De Leon return that the Dodgers were willing to part with. Forget that De Leon has since undergone Tommy John surgery after being traded to the Rays, I’m still not convinced Minnesota can’t get an equal or better package at this point. Manny Machado will be the cream of the crop come trading season, but Dozier is capable of being a big get up the middle for a team looking to make a postseason push.
Concerning the Twins however, Paul Molitor will be tasked with filling his position in the field, as well as the gaping hole in the lineup. From where I stand, I can see only two options in how to handle the days post-Brian Dozier. In my mind, only one of them is right, but that doesn’t necessarily make it any more likely. Let’s explore:
Option A: It’s Nick Gordon Time
In dealing Dozier, the Twins essentially wave the white flag on their season. While they could be sellers and pivot as they did a year ago, moving one of their best players is something you wouldn’t expect to come back from. In operating this way, the focus needs to turn from winning games, into focusing on process for 2019.
Given the expectation that Nick Gordon will become the Twins second basemen of the future, getting him up to the big leagues, and acclimated, should be of the utmost importance. He’s scuffled mightily at Triple-A Rochester, posting an OPS just north of .600. I really don’t care about his production however. He dominated at Double-A, and there’s been some questions surrounding his bat ever since he was drafted. Allowing him to get in the field, settle into a new role, and get used to the rigors of big league baseball is a must. The more high-end pitching he faces now, the less of a learning curve there should be expected in the season ahead.
The core of Byron Buxton, Miguel Sano, Jose Berrios, Max Kepler, and Eddie Rosario will ultimately determine what this team can accomplish in the next few years. As veterans step aside however, the graduation of top prospects such as Gordon, will need to go smoothly to fill in. Now is not the time to worry about starting his clock or whether he’s going to step in and be all-systems-go right away. Get young Flash in there, and take what you can into the offseason to work on.
Option B: Utility All Over
Ehire Adrianza was recently activated from the disabled list, and returns to the Twins having had a nice little hot streak before landing on the shelf. He was going to lose his starting role at SS when Jorge Polanco returned regardless, but now there isn’t a clear avenue to playing time.
Minnesota has pushed Adrianza out into the outfield at times over his tenure here, but he’s yet to play second base this season (in part because Dozier has been there for 89/90 games). Should Minnesota go this route, Adrianza likely becomes the starter at second. Polanco would stay at short, as it’s his long-term home, and Eduardo Escobar remains at the hot corner.
In operating this way, the Twins would really be up a creek without a paddle. Adrianza doesn’t figure into the future plans, and they’d be past the point of prioritizing wins. Unfortunately, it’s hard to not see this as a likely scenario, given how much run players like Ryan LaMarre and Bobby Wilson have been given.
At the end of the day the hope should be that if the Twins do sell, and most importantly regarding Brian Dozier, the position is turned over to the man in waiting. Stephen Gonsalves, John Curtiss, Trevor May, and a handful of other players should make their way up from Triple-A, but Gordon must be chief among them.
Once a team has decided to close shop on a given season, making sure to learn something and get the most out of every game from a development standpoint needs to be the focus. Selling off assets and failing to capitalize on opportunity- allowing process and ability to drive results could very well have the Twins staring at the next big prospects to be sent back down in hopes of figuring it out.
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