Brian Dozier is having himself one heck of a season. In the first 62 games (though mid-June), Dozier was OPSing below .700: .227/.325/.369, with only 7 HR & 12 doubles and a .250 BABIP. That put him on pace for this kind of season (pro-rated over 162 games):
Here's what he's done since then:
Take another look at that prorated home run pace. Since mid-June Dozier's been slugging the ball the way Bret Boone could only have dreamed.
But has he been hitting cheapies? According to Home Run Tracker, Dozier's average true distance this season is 397.7 feet, which is just below the AL average (399.2 ft) and his average speed off the bat is 103.7 mph, just a tick below average (103.9 mph). Only two of his homers have been hit to the right of dead-center (off Cesar Ramos in Arlington & Carlos Rodon in Chicago). Home Run Tracker rates 8 of Dozier's homers as "No Doubt" clouts, which ties him with the following players: M. Machado, E. Longoria, B. Harper, M. Trout, D. Ortiz, E. Gattis, M. Cabrera, C. Gonzalez, A. Duvall. Some notable names with No Doubt hits that don't speak as loud: J. Donaldson, M. Sano, A. Rizzo, P. Goldschmidt, K. Morales, P. Alvarez, J. Upton, A. Beltre. Dozier is tied with Adrian Beltre for 5th in "Just Enough" homers, trailing both Jay Bruce & Robinson Cano (and one ahead of his playfully mephitic fellow keystone slugger Rougned Odor). Draw what conclusions you will, but it seems that Dozier's been neither wildly lucky or Thor-like.
Dozier's been just about as good on the road as he's been in Minneapolis:
Fangraphs' David Laurila wrote up Dozier's insight on his approach just last month (August 5th). Dozier had homered the night before (#22), "putting him on pace to match last year's career-high total of 28" as Laurila noted. The article's worth your time if you haven't read it already. I won't recap any of it here, other than to say I hope Dozier's philosophy is respected by the coaching staff & front office, and that he shares it more widely in the clubhouse. Last week Fangraphs' Scott Strandberg followed up on Laurila's interview with some analysis of Dozier's new swing mechanics. In a piece published at Fangraphs today, August Fagerstrom observes that Dozier currently is second on MLB leaderboards for two metrics: home runs (behind Mark Trumbo) and ISO (behind David Ortiz). What Dozier has done is truly historic. Fagerstrom: "[Dozier's] .298 ISO is the highest unadjusted figure in the expansion era (1961-present) for a second baseman and the highest by any second baseman not named Rogers Hornsby in baseball history (emphasis mine). Adjusted, Dozier is 6th since 1961, behind Joe Morgan ('76), Davey Johnson ('73), Bobby Grich ('81), Ryne Sandberg ('90), and Grich again ('79). A truly impressive list no matter which way you make it
That list also suggests something else: that Dozier's best days as a player may well be happening right now. Will the Brian Dozier we know right now – or, heck, even the Brian Dozier of 2014 & 2015 – be a solid contributor on the next great Twins team?
Dozier will be in his age-30 season next year. We all are familiar with the aging characteristics of bat-first second basemen, and if you figure Dozier's defense is about league average (as most metrics suggest), then the question begins to be shaped by forces outside of Dozier's control. Will the next great Twins team come before Dozier is a significant liability in the infield? Jeff Kent & Dan Uggla are proof that a team can trot out a mediocre defender at second base for a good long time if he averages 25+ bombs a season. If Dozier can keep that up, the answer two both questions is probably "Yes."
To finally get to the question raised in the title of this post: should whomever the Twins name as their new GM aggressively shop Dozier this winter?
Last season the Twins signed Dozier to a deal that has been very club-friendly to date: 4 years/$20 million. After this season Dozier is due $6 million in 2017, followed by $9 million in 2018. As the value of a win continues to rise (currently somewhere around
$6 million $8 million per win), Dozier promises to offer significant value as long as he can stay on the field and manage at least the 2.4 rWAR/3.3fWAR he posted in 2015. By keeping him, the Twins have one major, veteran bat in their lineup for two more seasons. (With, I might add, a great approach to hitting, whether the front office appreciates it or not).
On the other hand, however, Dozier's contract and production could be extremely attractive to clubs looking to contend in 2017. The most appealing free agent second basemen this winter are probably Neil Walker, Chase Utley, and Kelly Johnson.
The major wrinkle in pursuing any trade is figuring out what teams might be looking to upgrade at the keystone next year. Of the obvious contenders, the Dodgers & Cardinals both make plenty of sense, but other likely first-league clubs are pretty well set at second: Cubs (Baez/Zobrist), Astros (Altuve), Rangers (Odor), Red Sox (Petunia), Blue Jays (Travis), Pirates (Harrison), Marlins (Gordon), and so on. Any non-Dodgers/Cardinals trade would probably need to happen with a team that is out this year but likes its chances next season.
So the question is, if you're the Twins' new GM, what do you do?