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The Brian Dozier Trade That Almost Was

Sometimes, the best trades are the ones you don't make.

That old sports adage certainly seems to apply with regards to the first big test Derek Falvey and Thad Levine faced as heads of the reconstructed Twins front office.

A look back at their savvy stubbornness, and how it paid off:
Image courtesy of Jerome Miron, USA Today
In our blueprint for last year's Offseason Handbook, we suggested trading Brian Dozier to the Dodgers in exchange for young right-hander Jose De Leon and additional prospects.

** You can order the 2018 Offseason Handbook now (name your price) to ensure you get it ahead of its official release at the end of the postseason, with other special perks on the way as well. Preorders are only open for a limited time! **

The Twins, it turned out, were of a similar mind. As soon as the postseason ended, reports quickly arose that they were engaging the Dodgers over Dozier, with De Leon mentioned as a central piece. Based on media coverage, negotiations over the rest of the package turned into an extended saga, with little agreement over what those additional prospects might look like.

For Levine, it was a high-stakes game of chicken. The longtime right-hand man of Jon Daniels in Texas, Levine was still arranging his office after landing his first gig as a GM, and here he was, going toe-to-toe with one of the game's most heralded execs in Andrew Friedman.

And the player he was discussing giving up? Only the most popular and valuable one on the roster – one of the few marketable commodities on a club that just reached an all-time low. No pressure or anything.

It would've been irresponsible not to explore the possibility. Dozier was coming off a likely career year and approaching the end of his contract. The Twins were rebuilding. De Leon was a hot prospect on the rise – the premier strikeout artist in all of the minors, aligning with a drastic need in Minnesota's system.

But by all accounts, Levine took a hardline stance, refusing to accept anything less than a major haul in addition to De Leon. The thinking, I imagine, was that pitching prospects (especially those with recent injury history and unproven workload thresholds like JDL) are fickle assets, and you can't really afford to place all your chips on a single one.

Good call. The Dodgers ultimately ran out of patience with the Twins and made a pivot, shipping De Leon to Tampa Bay straight-up in exchange for Logan Forsythe.

I'm not sure anyone's regretting the deal at this point, but it certainly wasn't a slam dunk for either side.

Forsythe took a huge step back from his solid 2016 campaign, hitting 14 fewer home runs with a 100-point drop in OPS. The Dodgers still won 104 games and are still heading to the big show but when you're in go-for-it mode, there's only one ultimate goal. I wonder if they'll wish they had the dangerous Dozier instead of Forsythe in the World Series, and next year.

While the Dodgers didn't receive the major impact they initially sought, they're probably satisfied with the price they ended up paying. De Leon, sure enough, saw his first season in Tampa's organization ravaged by injuries, limiting him to 41 total innings and just one appearance for the Rays. It was more or less a lost year, casting further doubt on durability going forward.

How would that have looked as the headlining return for Dozier, while he was powering Los Angeles to an incredible season?

We'll probably never know what the best package Levine turned down was. But there were rumblings that the Twins were pushing for the likes of Cody Bellinger and Walker Buehler. If so, it demonstrates astute evaluative chops from the GM and his staff.

As we now know, Bellinger went on to have one of the great rookie campaigns in MLB history this year, slugging 39 home runs in 130 games, while Buehler returned from his Tommy John layoff in dominant fashion and even made a late-season debut for the Dodgers.

Getting one of those prospects would have changed the conversation. But if indeed the offer was never more than De Leon plus scraps, then Minnesota pretty clearly made the right choice. Dozier stuck around and was a driving force in the Twins' reinvigorating turnaround, earning our 2017 team MVP honor.

Coming off yet another strong campaign, and still a year from free agency, Dozier still carries significant trade value if the Twins choose to go that route, though that seems unlikely with the sudden flip to contention mode.

For Levine and Falvey, stubbornness paid off. I hope they'll exercise the same keen judgment and high standards as the trade talks heat up once again in the coming weeks.

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185 Comments

Hindsight 20-20 and all that garbage...this is spot on Nick.

 

It took major cojones to hold out for more than one hope for a starting pitcher in return

 

Now...if Falvine can convince the Front Office that the time is now to move on a $120M Ace...this time next year you'll be writing about Yu Darvish and the AL Rookie of the Year

 

Looking forward to that article Nick

    • Mike Frasier Law likes this
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Winston Smith
Oct 19 2017 09:52 PM

You aren't getting Darvish for $120M.

    • Mike Sixel and gunnarthor like this

If 2 + 2 = 5 then there's a chance that $120M / 5 = Yu ;)

    • Jerr and Oldgoat_MN like this
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KirbyDome89
Oct 19 2017 11:11 PM

The Twins pitching is horrible and there isn't a ton of help on the way. I get that everybody is thrilled by making the one game WC but if anything that game showed just how far behind the Twins are in terms of pitching. Hell, their "ace," couldn't get past the second inning. They can't rely on a young core to drag a staff that sports a revolving door at the 4 and 5 spots for an entire season. If they moved on from a 2B coming off a career year that very likely will never be repeated and they snagged a pitching prospect who at worse projects to be one of the FA "options," the Twins are looking to hand 12-15 million a year I can't get too upset. 

 

Everybody rages about SSS on here but we're now sure JDL is a bust? I hope not making the move for JDL does turn out to be the right decision, but I feel like if you're calling this a "win," already it's more because you want it to be.

    • Mike Sixel and Tom Froemming like this

I'm not sure the Twins were "stubborn," so much as they had a price in mind and they intended to get it and when they didn't get it they didn't make a trade.

 

That's what good GMs do. There was no need to trade Dozier he is a good player. I was all on board for a Dozier trade, but I certainly didn't want the team to trade him only for a single pitcher. He was worth more than that. 

 

Hard to say the Dodgers made a mistake, given the season they had. But Dozier would look awfully good in that lineup. And it would be nice to have a couple of really good pitching prospects who could step in to the rotation next year (DeLeon is still a good prospect despite his 2017).

 

But it was better that the Twins made the playoffs this year.

    • gunnarthor, Dman, gagu and 1 other like this

 

(Forsythe is set to depart as a free agent this winter)

The Dodgers have a team option for 2018 for $8.5M. As much as Forsythe struggled this year, I would presume that they will exercise that option.

    • Nick Nelson and glunn like this
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Nick Nelson
Oct 20 2017 08:29 AM

 

Everybody rages about SSS on here but we're now sure JDL is a bust? I hope not making the move for JDL does turn out to be the right decision, but I feel like if you're calling this a "win," already it's more because you want it to be.

I didn't say he was a bust. But whatever question marks surrounded him a year ago have only been magnified. De Leon will turn 26 next season, hasn't even thrown 115 innings in a season, hasn't had a shred of success at the major-league level. 

 

If the Twins had traded Dozier for him straight-up, or with minimal added pieces (as plenty of people around here felt they should have), and things had played out in a similar fashion with both players, it would look TERRIBLE for the Twins and their new regime right now. They'd be getting skewered. This isn't even debatable. 

    • Brock Beauchamp, Carole Keller, Seth Stohs and 22 others like this
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Brock Beauchamp
Oct 20 2017 08:41 AM

 

I didn't say he was a bust. But whatever question marks surrounded him a year ago have only been magnified. De Leon will turn 26 next season, hasn't even thrown 115 innings in a season, hasn't had a shred of success at the major-league level. 

 

If the Twins had traded Dozier for him straight-up, or with minimal added pieces (as plenty of people around here felt they should have), and things had played out in a similar fashion with both players, it would look TERRIBLE for the Twins and their new regime right now. They'd be getting skewered. This isn't even debatable. 

Yes, this. As I said at the time of the trade discussions, maybe De Leon isn't an injury risk... or maybe he is.

 

But he gets a knock for never pitching more than 115 innings in a season and this season was even worse.

 

If he was in the Twins org right now, people would be screaming bloody murder, and rightly so. All pitching prospects are questions marks. Pitching prospects who have barely crossed a half season of MLB innings at age 25, even moreso.

 

Remember that De Leon is one year older than Berrios except the Minnesota Jose has pitched more than 115 innings four times in his career (and came close a fifth year).

    • Carole Keller, glunn, Blake and 7 others like this

 

The Twins pitching is horrible and there isn't a ton of help on the way. I get that everybody is thrilled by making the one game WC but if anything that game showed just how far behind the Twins are in terms of pitching. Hell, their "ace," couldn't get past the second inning. They can't rely on a young core to drag a staff that sports a revolving door at the 4 and 5 spots for an entire season. If they moved on from a 2B coming off a career year that very likely will never be repeated and they snagged a pitching prospect who at worse projects to be one of the FA "options," the Twins are looking to hand 12-15 million a year I can't get too upset. 

 

Everybody rages about SSS on here but we're now sure JDL is a bust? I hope not making the move for JDL does turn out to be the right decision, but I feel like if you're calling this a "win," already it's more because you want it to be.

It's a "win" because the Twins didn't sell Dozier for 60 cents on the dollar. They could still trade Dozier (or a different MI) this year and get a better offer. If they had moved Dozier, they (likely) couldn't have.

 

I'd also point out that the Yankees ace couldn't make it out of the first inning. Pitching is rough all around. Kyle Gibson would have been arguably the Angels best pitcher last year. So while the back of the rotation isn't set and the front doesn't have a true ace, we do have pieces in place and the ability to get something in free agency as well (or through a trade). 

    • glunn, Blake, SwainZag and 2 others like this

 

It's a "win" because the Twins didn't sell Dozier for 60 cents on the dollar. They could still trade Dozier (or a different MI) this year and get a better offer. If they had moved Dozier, they (likely) couldn't have.

 

Concur. The story last winter was Dozier had a career year, and couldn't produce similar stats. Now there's 3 years of data showing he can be a ~30 HR hitter and 2 years of an OPS north of .850. 

 

Even if the contract is one less year, he answered a lot of questions whether or not 2016 was for real. 

    • Blake, Jerr, gunnarthor and 6 others like this
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birdwatcher
Oct 20 2017 09:49 AM

 

The Twins pitching is horrible and there isn't a ton of help on the way. I get that everybody is thrilled by making the one game WC but if anything that game showed just how far behind the Twins are in terms of pitching. Hell, their "ace," couldn't get past the second inning. They can't rely on a young core to drag a staff that sports a revolving door at the 4 and 5 spots for an entire season. If they moved on from a 2B coming off a career year that very likely will never be repeated and they snagged a pitching prospect who at worse projects to be one of the FA "options," the Twins are looking to hand 12-15 million a year I can't get too upset. 

 

Everybody rages about SSS on here but we're now sure JDL is a bust? I hope not making the move for JDL does turn out to be the right decision, but I feel like if you're calling this a "win," already it's more because you want it to be.

 

Everyone here agrees the Team need to add high-quality pitching talent.

 

I found it interesting that you railed at commenters and their SSS myopia regarding JDL, and yet in an earlier comment you attach meaning to how our "ace" struggled in one particular game. Are you watching the playoffs and counting the number of times a highly reputable starter has been knocked around early in games?

 

People aren't breathing a sigh of relief because JDL performed poorly in 41 innings. They're happy we laid off one guy whose history suggests he's an injury risk. Our pro scouts made a smart recommendation to their bosses in this case.

    • gunnarthor, SwainZag, WLFINN and 3 others like this
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Brock Beauchamp
Oct 20 2017 09:58 AM

To frame it differently:

 

At this point, what's the difference between De Leon and Alex Meyer?

 

And while I wasn't a big fan of the Meyer trade, he was almost an afterthought in the system when he was traded because he had crossed age 25 and couldn't pitch more than 130 innings a season.

 

Talent only matters if you're on the field and an oft-injured stellar player can actually be a detriment to a team if his replacement is way below average (which is usually the case with starting pitchers).

    • stringer bell likes this

 

I didn't say he was a bust. But whatever question marks surrounded him a year ago have only been magnified. De Leon will turn 26 next season, hasn't even thrown 115 innings in a season, hasn't had a shred of success at the major-league level. 

 

If the Twins had traded Dozier for him straight-up, or with minimal added pieces (as plenty of people around here felt they should have), and things had played out in a similar fashion with both players, it would look TERRIBLE for the Twins and their new regime right now. They'd be getting skewered. This isn't even debatable. 

 

I think Nick has it right here. The FO looks smart to have held out for an additional piece like Bellinger. If we'd dealt an all-star on a good contract for a pitcher who got hurt and a couple of lottery tickets (A-ball prospects) they would have gotten crushed for it all season.

 

De Leon may turn out to be a fine pitcher, but the injuries were a legit concern then and seem even moreso now. But the more important part for the twins future is the Twins seem to be making smart evaluations on what players are worth and aren't willing to sell low. Clearly, if they were asking for Bellinger, they were asking for the right kind of guy: he's been great.

 

I hope this continues as we work through the off-season, whether it's trades or free agency.

    • Brock Beauchamp, Nick Nelson, birdwatcher and 4 others like this

Clearly the FO looks right here. No disagreements from me.

 

But questioning the Dodgers seems odd, given they are in the WS and have more depth than the Mariana Trench because they didn't trade much.....

    • Jerr and Oldgoat_MN like this

You could also frame it other way in that Dodgers held tight not giving Bellinger in the trade look how that would have effected them this year. The home runs lost by trading him could not have been made up by Dozier. This was probably good call for both teams they were better off not making the trade. My experience over the years the big trades usually don't work out that well over the years. The smaller trades can be good but when you start trading big name players of team it usually doesn't work out that well. My point would be I look at some of the Twins bigger name trades in my lifetime like Blyleven, Burnansky, Viola and Santanna didn't end up with much. The ones that did work were Knoblauck and Pierzynski for the Twins but over the years I think the big name trades it more often was bust. I don't think even geniues of today are any better on prospects if they are going to be hit or failure to many factors that  can happen. 

    • Jerr likes this
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drivlikejehu
Oct 20 2017 10:51 AM

De Leon was an obvious injury risk at the time and it was apparent that the Dodgers wanted to get rid of him. The value of JDL + throw ins for Dozier was so off that it's kind of hard for me to give the front office too much credit, because they didn't receive a legitimate offer.

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Deduno Abides
Oct 20 2017 12:56 PM
Very few prospects traded by the Dodgers have turned out any good. They’re keeping their good ones and hyping their bad ones.

Good move by the new front office, which was under fan pressure to “do something.”
    • USAFChief, birdwatcher, gunnarthor and 2 others like this
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bluechipper
Oct 20 2017 12:59 PM

You could also frame it other way in that Dodgers held tight not giving Bellinger in the trade look how that would have effected them this year. The home runs lost by trading him could not have been made up by Dozier. This was probably good call for both teams they were better off not making the trade. My experience over the years the big trades usually don't work out that well over the years. The smaller trades can be good but when you start trading big name players of team it usually doesn't work out that well. My point would be I look at some of the Twins bigger name trades in my lifetime like Blyleven, Burnansky, Viola and Santanna didn't end up with much. The ones that did work were Knoblauck and Pierzynski for the Twins but over the years I think the big name trades it more often was bust. I don't think even geniues of today are any better on prospects if they are going to be hit or failure to many factors that  can happen.

It sounded like Bellinger wasn't even remotely available last winter anyway.
    • birdwatcher likes this

Very few prospects traded by the Dodgers have turned out any good. They’re keeping their good ones and hyping their bad ones.

Good move by the new front office, which was under fan pressure to “do something.”


It was a pretty impressive hold that paid off, especially considering how badly they needed (and still need) pitching.

More than a few people on this board would have done Dozier straight up for DeLeon. Does show you can have a price, have it met or face the consequences and live to see another day.
    • Nick Nelson, USAFChief, birdwatcher and 6 others like this
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birdwatcher
Oct 20 2017 01:40 PM

 

De Leon was an obvious injury risk at the time and it was apparent that the Dodgers wanted to get rid of him. The value of JDL + throw ins for Dozier was so off that it's kind of hard for me to give the front office too much credit, because they didn't receive a legitimate offer.

 

It's true that most thought they were wise to spurn the Dodgers, but there were plenty of people, on here and in the media, that criticized the organization for turning down what they saw as a legitimate offer.

    • gunnarthor and flpmagikat like this

"We'll probably never know what the best package Levine turned down was. But there were rumblings that the Twins were pushing for the likes of Cody Bellinger and Walker Buehler. If so, it demonstrates astute evaluative chops from the GM and his staff."

 

I don't think we can make any definitive statements here.For all we know the Twins were offered DeLeon, Bellinger and Buehler and were holding out for one more lottery pick. Last year at this time Bellinger was just a prospect.BTW, maybe now is the time to go after DeLeon.

De Leon's career isn't quite over yet.  

Unless you really know who was on the table, you cannot judge a non-made trade.

 

Let's say that the Dodgers, in addition to DeLeon, to sweeten the trade they wanted to throw in a journeyman infielder to play second base for the Twins, named Chris Taylor; if that were the case,I'd say that the Twins were the losers in this non-trade.

 

You never know unless you know all the names discussed and what the final offer was.

    • flpmagikat and Lefty74 like this
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Brock Beauchamp
Oct 20 2017 02:24 PM

 

De Leon's career isn't quite over yet.  

Neither is Dozier's.

    • gunnarthor and VirginSturgeon like this

 

Neither is Dozier's.

 

Not by a longshot, it seems.


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