The Minnesota Twins are one game away from clinching a playoff berth. A lot of credit for that success goes to the move that the front office didn’t make.
The Minnesota Twins offseason this past winter centered around the conversation of whether or not Brian Dozier would be traded. The decision to hang on to the second baseman created some passionate reaction among fans and baseball experts alike. Some were highly disappointed in the team’s decision to not cash in on Dozier at his highest value. Others were applauding the front office for not making a trade when it was clear they were not getting the value they wanted.
Now as tracking the Twins magic number is a “thing”, Dozier has been a key piece to a playoff-bound roster. In theory, the Twins could have still had a breakout 2017 without Dozier but as recently as Tuesday night he made his presence felt – a Tuesday night against the Cleveland Indians where Dozier put a 3-run home run over the fence to give the Twins the lead and eventual win over the division AL Central division champion; a win that is good because it was a good opponent and it also chiseled the magic number down to 1 to clinch a playoff berth, giving the Twins reason to applaud their own decision to hang on to Dozier.
We may never truly know what the Twins may have gotten in return for a deal involving Dozier. It was pretty clear that the only real deal on the table involved the Los Angeles Dodgers and the only significant player they were willing to give up was prospect pitcher Jose De Leon.
When the Twins stood firm the Dodgers traded De Leon to the Tampa Bay Rays in exchange for their second basemen, Logan Forsythe. The right-hander has struggled with injury since joining the Rays and only saw one game with the major league club where he tossed 2.2 innings and gave up 3 earned runs.
With 3 stints on the DL and only 38.1 total innings pitched in 2017, De Leon would not have been an impactful return for this Twins season. He may eventually turn out to be another dominate Rays starter, but for a season it looks like the Twins avoided a trade they would later regret.
Dozier has turned in a solid season for himself. On the year he has batted .262/.349/.478 with 33 home runs. That gives him a WAR of 3.4 according to Baseball Reference and a WAR of 4.0 according to FanGraphs. That FanGraphs WAR ranks him as the 4th best second basemen in the majors.
At the trade deadline, Dozier was one of the most outspoken of Twins players who were upset by the team trading away players like Jaime Garcia and Brandon Kintzler. The trades made the front office look like it had given up on the season which clearly didn’t make the current players very happy. Dozier then responded with his bat as he has batted .290/.386/.556 and hit 15 of his 33 home runs in 52 games since the trade deadline.
Dozier may not be the ideal type of player to hit in the leadoff spot, but as the Twins have fought for their playoff lives it is clear he has been one of the Twins best bats. He looks most comfortable in the leadoff spot and getting him the extra at-bats that top of the order bats get has been a good thing for the Twins.
Early in the season, the Twins may not have felt the effects of a much-weakened roster without Dozier. In fact, the options that the Twins had available were the reason why many were ready for the team to trade Dozier away. The Twins would have likely started the season with a combination of Jorge Polanco and Eduardo Escobar in the middle infield. There is a possibility that maybe Ehire Adrianza would have figured into the equation as well. There may have even been the temptation to rush Nick Gordon or another minor league infielder to the majors. Clearly, each option would have weakened the Twins starting lineup and bench when compared to having Dozier still on the roster.
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Where things would have gotten really interesting would be a Twins lineup without Dozier when Miguel Sano went down with a stress reaction in his leg. The Twins would no longer have had the depth to call upon that they did and have the likes of a very solid Escobar step out of his utility role and into the starting third base position. Instead, the Twins would have been looking at Adrianza becoming an everyday player or possibly someone like Niko Goodrum getting a few more looks in the lineup.
Escobar and Adrianza have both played important roles in the stretch run for the Twins. The difference is without Dozier they would have received more playing time. And more playing time may not have always resulted in the positive results we have been able to see. Or the flexibility to use them the way Paul Molitor has been able to use his bench, such has using Adrianza as an outfielder against left-handed pitching.
Dozier has clearly not turned the 2017 Twins into a playoff team on his own. There have been plenty of spectacular performances along the way by the whole team. There is no denying at this point that taking Dozier out of this lineup would have dramatically changed the dynamic of this team, making the non-trade of him something to celebrate.