Happy holidays to you all! I hope that you had a great Christmas and the return to work this week (assuming you are returning to work, of course) isn’t terribly painful. It’s been a long time since I sat down to write an actual post here. There’s a reason why the median age of bloggers skews well toward youth. When there isn’t much to talk about and the bed is nice and warm, it becomes difficult to find a reason to get around to writing a post. Heck, the Cards even signed Dexter Fowler since my last one (save the podcast one) and I didn’t write, though that was mainly because you could hear my opinions on Meet Me At Musial and Gateway to Baseball Heaven.
Last night, though, word leaked out that the Cardinals were heavily in on Minnesota Twins second baseman Brian Dozier. It’s been assumed for a while that the Dodgers would win that derby, especially since they seemed to be willing to part with a couple of their higher-ranked prospects. While it seems most likely that this will just wind up extracting a little more from the Los Angeles club, it is an interesting thing to kick around for a day or two.
Dozier, of course, is coming off a career year in which he cranked 42 homers and had a 6.5 bWAR. While the power spike isn’t probably going to be that significant going forward, he did have 20-plus the two years before that. He’s also had over 30 doubles for three years straight, so he’s got pop. His .268 average last year, though, was 30 points above what he’s usually been producing. There’s indications that his approach is improving, but he didn’t walk any more in 2016 and struck out just 10 times less than he did in 2015. I’m not an expert in reading the defensive metrics, but he looks like about an average defender at second base.
There’s at least one train of thought that has Dozier comparable to Jedd Gyorko. Gyorko is two years younger and there are some similarities in power and average (and defense, I guess), but Dozier’s power profile seems to be more rounded. Gyorko’s high in doubles is 26, which he reached in his rookie year four seasons ago. In a full season, Dozier’s never had less than 30. Dozier also averages three triples a season in his career. Gyorko has two triples total in his. I think I feel comfortable saying that Dozier’s a better player, though the comparisons are legitimate and shouldn’t be dismissed out of hand.
So how do you use Dozier if you acquire him? He played shortstop in his rookie year but has only played second base since then. However, acquiring him at the expense of Kolten Wong‘s playing time (whether you add Wong to the deal or not) would seem to be against the entire “improve the defense” theme this offseason has had. (I would expect that was one of the reasons the Cards only had a mild interest in Edwin Encarnacion, that and wondering how he’d hold up to 150 games at first.) I’m not saying that’s the deal breaker, only that it’d be a bit strange.
There’s also the thought that you see if Dozier can play third base and hopefully improve the defense there, given that Jhonny Peralta would be your starter if you had to play today. Peralta, while not reminding anyone of Scott Rolen at third, is capable over there and even further removed from his thumb injury should be able to catch the balls that come to him. Of course, Dozier can probably do that and provide more pop, but it’d be strange to pay for position scarcity and not use it. The Cardinals would be paying for a second baseman with the talent they give up. Moving him to third would, somewhat, degrade that value. That’s completely their right to do so, but they don’t get a break on the price because they don’t want to use Dozier in the way the Twins did and the way that he created his value.
All of these reasons seem to rule out the Cardinals really being serious here, but there is a need for a little more thump in the lineup. It’s strange, saying that in a winter after the Cardinals led the National League in home runs, but with no Matt Holliday, no Brandon Moss, the unlikelihood that Gyorko will hit 30 again, the power isn’t quite there like it was last season. You could see a lineup of:
That’s a pretty nice looking lineup, I think. Couple that with an improvement in the pitching staff and you are at least the favorites for the wild card with the chance to pounce if things go sideways for the Cubs, like they have a pajama-related injury or two.
What could the Cards give up? You’d have to think Matt Adams would be part of the deal. Adams really needs a place to play, would be available for first and DH, and has significant power that the Twins would need to replace with Dozier leaving. Of course, Joe Mauer and Miguel Sano might be enough for Minnesota to not need Adams, but having him in the mix there might be a good thing for them.
From all accounts, Minnesota is looking for pitching, which would probably put someone like Luke Weaver in the deal. Weaver’s close to the majors (having made his debut last year) and could probably crack their Opening Day rotation.
The Twins are set in center field with Byron Buxton, unless they’ve soured on him given his slow start to his major league career. (I would assume they haven’t–if they have, Mo should have them toss him into the deal!) That would mean Harrison Bader, who in my mind is probably blocked in St. Louis with the Fowler signing unless Grichuk really struggles, might not be a piece Minnesota would be interested in.
Dozier’s obviously a nice talent but he’s not the kind of guy that warrants Alex Reyes discussion, which at least makes a deal somewhat feasible. Bader, Adams, and Weaver would be a deal that St. Louis would do, but I don’t know that the Twins would be all up for that. It’s not quite a classic “spare parts” deal that the Internet loves (that would be Adams, Peralta, and Wong, probably) since it has a couple of ranked prospects in it, but it’s pretty close. There’s not a lot of pain on the Cardinal side there, I don’t think. If you include Wong in the package, though, I wonder if that doesn’t tip the scales too far for the Cardinals. Adams, Weaver, and Wong? That might be closer.
As I said before, I doubt that the Cardinals wind up making this move and I’m not sure how I feel about it overall. My initial reaction is to let Wong have a season, let him play some good defense, and let’s see what the club has. However, that above lineup does make you feel quite excited about the coming year, doesn’t it? It’s a dilemma. One that at least gives us some warmth from the hot stove at the end of the year!