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To Extend, or Not to Extend ... The case for Brian Dozier

Posted by John Olson , 13 October 2017 · 1,854 views

twins dozier
To Extend, or Not to Extend ... The Case for Brian Dozier


The 2018 Twins offseason will undoubtedly have many questions. The usual "will they, won't they" Hot Stove talk of free agent signings, the Winter Meetings and trade talk circulating. While there is no doubt the Twins have holes to fill (Relief pitching, Starting pitching, maybe a right handed power bat, etc.), one question seems to loom large: What is the future of Brian Dozier?

Dozier entered the 2017 season for the Twins, his age 30 season, and once again put up stellar numbers across the board. He lead the team in WAR (wins above replacement) with a mark of 4.9, hit 34 home runs, was a catalyst out of the leadoff spot and makes a strong case for most valuable player on the club. He was undoubtedly the heart and soul of a Twins team that, at times in prior seasons, has desperately needed strong veteran leadership.

That said, the 2018 season is the last of Dozier's 4 year, 20 million dollar extension he signed prior to the 2015 season, and the Twins second bagger will enter another offseason (probably) with more trade talk and contract extension speculation. Not knowing how Dozier would like to handle the next season, I can assume three scenarios how the organization can proceed with Dozier this offseason -
  • Trade Brian Dozier
Certainly a case can be made for trading Dozier. His trade value is high, the Twins need starting pitching and if you could find a willing trade partner to make you a deal you couldn't refuse, why not? Reality is, the market for Second baseman is weak. Most clubs, while they value the position, hold the prospect of a power hitting 2B as a luxury. There is a reason, for both clubs, that Dozier didn't move last offseason to the Dodgers. The Twins needed more than Jose De Leon, and the Dodgers were not going to move their untouchable prospects (Buehler, Verdugo, Bellinger) to aquire Dozier. Ergo, no deal. The situation is likely the same this offseason.
  • Hang on and let him leave a Free Agent
Another plausible route, the Twins may view Dozier as an important, but expendable cog in the lineup that is getting younger and more athletic every year. With Dozier entering the year at 31 years old, perhaps they ride one last year and hope he turns in another solid performance (maybe the playoffs?) and mutually part ways with Dozier, him exploring his first taste of Free Agency and the Twins, likely, hoping for a compensation pick. I would handicap this particular scenario on the low end of the spectrum, the Twins seem to value Dozier and his intangibles, an unclear replacement in the minor leagues is not looming (Nick Gordon doesn't seem to be pushing the door on Dozier, though turning in a solid season himself), and the value attached to a compensation pick is nominal, especially to a club that fancies themselves contenders.
  • Extend Brian Dozier before Free Agency
This is the meat and potatoes argument. There are a lot of reasons to extend Dozier beyond the 2018 season, but the new regime will have to look at the value Dozier will provide rather than pay him for the value he has provided. To break that down, we'll have to do a little research.


A Case Study in Second Baseman

First, I think we need to understand how rare Second basemen like Brian Dozier are, not from a power or intangible standpoint, but from an age standpoint relative to their contract and statistics.

Only 8 teams in the MLB show a second baseman over the age of 30 in their depth chart as a projected starter. For the purpose of this article I've take the liberty to exclude a few players from the conversation:

(Super) Utility Players- Ben Zobrist

Utility Players- Danny Espinosa, Chase Utley, Jason Kipnis (Ok, I know, Utley isn't exactly a Utility player, but hes no starting 2B either)

Free Agents- Neil Walker

While all of the players above are over the age of 30, none of them is an expected starting 2B, with the exception of perhaps Neil Walker. Without knowing his future, or where he'll end up, I've left him out.


So, where does that leave us? With 8 players (Dozier not included):
  • Brandon Phillips, 36 - LAA, 6 year/$72.5MM, expires end of 2018
  • Ian Kinsler, 35 - DET Club Option, 2018, $12MM
  • Dustin Pedroia, 34 - BOS, 8 year/$110MM, expires end of 2022
  • Robinson Cano, 34 - SEA, 10 year/$240MM, expires end of 2024
  • Daniel Murphy, 32 - WAS, 3 year/$37.5MM expires end of 2018
  • Logan Forsythe, 31 - LAD, 2 year/10.25MM expires end of 2018
  • Jed Lowrie, 33 - OAK, 3 year/$23MM expires end of 2019
From here, we have to break it down a little further into categories of type-player. I separated by All Star, MLB regular and stopgap option. In the "All Star" section, Robinson Cano and Dustin Pedroia are headliners both being paid well into their late 30's early 40's, but we can also include Daniel Murphy and Ian Kinsler in the category, both are worthy for argument. Brian Dozier would fit in this category as well.Brandon Phillips is an aging, but competent MLB regular second baseman, so we can discuss him in further detail also.

The Stopgap players I've included are Forsythe and Lowrie. For the most part, Forsythe has been a disappointment in LA this season, while I wouldn't be shocked if the Dodgers brought him back, I would be if he were starting. The ageless Chase Utley has been serviceable, but father time has to catch up at some point, right? I expect the Dodgers to be big players for Ian Kinsler over the offseason, as they would more than happily trade some bobbles for the $12 Million he's owed. Jed Lowrie is also listed here, while he could be said to be a decent MLB regular, I'm not convinced there is a club outside of Oakland (maybe San Diego) that would be willing to plug him in the everyday lineup at this point. Franklin Barreto is looming as his replacement in Oakland, also. We would be remiss to include these two as worthy comparisons for Dozier.

We need to be honest with ourselves, the Twins will not (nor do I believe they should) give Dozier a contract like Robinson Cano's monster deal, or Pedroia's slightly less goliath contract. Regardless of the numbers these two great players have put up, the Twins will not match that type of contract. For fun, I've compared their stats anyway.

The more interesting comparisons happen when you look at Daniel Murphy, Ian Kinsler and (somewhat) Brandon Phillips.

Daniel Murphy
  • Age 30-32 Slash line avg. .316/.365/.529 avg HR/YR 20.6 fWAR 4.1
Murphy seems to be a good analog for Dozier-esque career progression. Besides a cup of coffee in his age 24 season, Murphy debuted as a regular at age 26, with good - not great - numbers until age 28. Murphy put up two solid seasons in his age 28 and 29 seasons. In his age 30 season, he again slashed very well (.281/.322/.449) and hit a career high 14 home runs, followed by an amazing World Series run by the Mets where Murphy was undoubtedly be biggest offensive factor.
The Mets decided to let Murphy leave in free agency (It was reported Murphy wanted to remain a Met, and his loyalty likely cost him suitors) and eventually signed with the Washington Nationals. His 3 year contract for $37.5 million dollars is considered a bargain, considering the value ($44.2MM fValue in '16, $34.7MM fValue in '17)*

*fValue is a Fangraphs value metric that measures the amount of money the players WAR stat would convert in free agency

Ian Kinsler
  • Age 30-34 Slash line avg. .278/.333/.434 avg HR/YR 17.6 fWAR 4.12
  • Age 35 and over Slash line avg. .236/.313/.412 avg HR/YR 22 fWAR 2.4
Ok, admittedly, its a little misleading to include a 35 and over category that includes a single season, but this is where it starts to become a little less cloudy. Kinsler, like Murphy and Dozier, didn't really emerge to be a dominant MLB starter until his age 26 season (Kinsler debuted at 24 and played the majority of full seasons at age 24 and 25). He was one of the top second basemen in the game for several seasons, including his age 29 season (trend starting to form, here) where he collected an amazing 7.2 fWAR. Kinsler continued to be solid through his age 30-34 seasons, compiling an average fValue score of $31.32 - a definite bargain when considering his 5 year, $75 million dollar contract he'd signed with the Rangers following his age 29 season.
While his 2.4 fWAR in 2017 is respectable, Kinsler is an elite defender at second base. His UZR and DRS numbers are at or near the top of all eligible second basemen. For contrast, while Dozier isn't a poor defender, per se, his defensive metrics aren't nearly as dominating as Kinsler. Dozier's WAR numbers come predominately from his bat, Kinsler was largely saved by the glove.

Brandon Phillips
  • Age 30-34 Slash line avg. .280/.324/.410 avg HR/YR 14.8 fWAR 3.12
  • Age 35 and over Slash line avg. .288/.320/.416 avg HR/YR 12 fWAR 1.3
Again, there is no Brian Dozier clone (that I'm aware of...) and Phillips is not the greatest analog, but they do share some things in common. Phillips was an All Star, making the All Star team 3 times in his career, playing serviceable (and probably flashier than necessary) defense at second base. The biggest commonality is the teams they play for, and this is why I've included Phillips in this discussion.
Phillips, while never the "bopper" Dozier is, but he was and still is, wildly popular in Cincinnati. He was rewarded for his loyalty and stellar play of his 20's and early 30's by signing a 6 year, 72.5 Million dollar contract to play out the rest of his career in the bandbox that is Great America Smallpark, uhhh I mean, Ballpark.
We can use Phillips as a precautionary tale of buying too many years into the natural declining mid-late 30's.

But, Robinson Cano and Dustin Pedroia?

Yes, I have purposely omitted Cano and Pedroia from the conversation, more because (A.) the Red Sox and Mariners forked out a ton of money to lock them away, something the Twins (I can say with 99.8% certainty) will not do with Dozier and (B.) the more research I did, the more I found the same patterns as with Murphy, Kinsler and Phillips, anyway. For instance:
  • fWAR and fValue numbers
Murphy (30-32 seasons) 4.1 fWAR avg. fValue $32.86
Kinsler (30-34 seasons) 4.12 fWAR avg fValue $31.32
Phillips (30-34 seasons) 3.12 fWAR avg fValue $23.26
Pedroia (30-34 seasons) 3.5 fWAR avg fValue $27.55
Cano (30-34 seasons) 4.46 fWAR avg fValue $34.56

Phillips (35 and over) 1.3 fWAR avg fValue $10.35 (41% decrease in fWAR, 44% decrease fValue)
Kinsler (35 and over) 2.4 fWAR avg fValue $19.00 (58% decrease in fWAR, 60% decrease fValue)


How does Brian Dozier Stack up?
  • Career Slash (age 25-30) .248/.322/.441 avg HR/YR 25.16 fWAR 3.47
Dozier stacks up remarkably well with this group, putting up similar slash and WAR values, most of the value tied into his age 29 (2016, 5.9 WAR) and age 30 (2017, 4.9 WAR) seasons. Dozier enters his age 31 season, and using his peers as comparison, he should have a few good/great seasons ahead of him.


The lesson, when viewing a possible Dozier contract extension this off season, is to avoid paying for prior accomplishments as much as possible and anticipate the value you will receive for the remainder of the term. Easier said than done, I know.

The Twins, if looking to sign Brian Dozier in the off season, should look to lock him for his age 31-34 seasons. A three year deal, four max. Buying into the age 35 and over years is buying into decline, and ultimately a very expensive, less athletic utility player.

Obviously this analysis is in a vacuum, not taking into consideration factors like payroll variations and what players are coming off the books, and priorities in the organization (i.e. investing money in pitching, other positions, etc.). However, the general trend in modern second baseman in Doziers talent bracket lends itself to buying into the age 30-34 seasons and avoiding the age 35 and up. Second base, even with the Chase Utley Rule, is still a fairly fragile position that tends to decline faster than other positions (other than catcher). With Doziers' track record, talent and intangible leadership skills, having Dozier for the next 3 or 4 seasons to lead the next crop of young talented Twins may be just the type of move the Twins need. As long as we're mindful not to pay for the Dozier of 2017 in 2022.

  • Platoon likes this



Do not extend without a considerable home town discount.Players 32+ can decline very quickly(read Uggla, Dan).Do not want dead money around.

Twins have a number of middle infielders coming. Wait and see how it plays out, middle infielders are unpaid at this time, because of supply and demand.