The Twins’ brass has seen plenty go wrong this season.
Ervin Santana was expected to return from offseason surgery in May but still hasn’t pitched in a big-league game. Shortstop Jorge Polanco was suspended for the first 80 games after testing positive for a steroid. Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano, once top prospects, have battled injuries and slumps and are currently in the minor leagues.
There are a few things, however, that have gone Derek Falvey and Thad Levine’s way. One is the decision not to enter into negotiations on a contract extension with Brian Dozier. Dozier hit 42 home runs two seasons ago, including 40 as a second baseman. That figure established an American League record for the position. Last season, Dozier hit 34 home runs and earned a Gold Glove.
That led many to assume the Twins would look to extend Dozier’s contract last offseason before he entered the final year of a four-year, $20 million deal. So why wouldn’t the Twins be more aggressive in trying to keep Dozier?
We are finding out.
Dozier got off to a solid start this season hitting .275/.353/.462 with four home runs and 10 RBIs in his first 21 games. But in the next 47 games, Dozier hit .188/.267/.348 with six home runs and 19 RBIs. That includes a dreadful .068/.180/.136 with a home run and four RBIs in his past 13 games.
Dozier went 2-for-4 with an RBI in the Twins’ 4-1 victory over Boston on Wednesday, but he was sitting at .217/.296/.386 with 10 home runs and 29 RBIs in 68 games entering that win. Not exactly the type of numbers that cause teams to give out long-term deals.
While Falvey and Levine’s decision might look like a wise one there is an issue here.
If Dozier fails to turn it around — and the Twins don’t contend in the abysmal American League Central and begin a fire sale — the 31-year-old might not have any value as the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline approaches.
If that happens, Falvey and Levine are going to be faced with a potentially difficult decision. Do the Twins extend a qualifying offer to Dozier? If they do and he rejects it and signs elsewhere, Minnesota would be eligible for draft-pick compensation. If Dozier accepts the qualifying offer, it was $17.4 million last winter, the Twins would have to take him back.
That wouldn’t appear to be part of their plan considering prospect Nick Gordon is expected to be the Twins’ second baseman in 2019. Considering how soft the free-agent market was last offseason, Dozier might realize that a one-year, $17.4 million deal might be as good as he can do.
So if the Twins can’t trade Dozier, and don’t want to extend him a qualifying offer, they might end up having to let him walk without seeing any return.
Now, here’s the potential positive. Dozier has proven to be an incredibly streaky player in the past.
He made the AL All-Star team in 2015 after hitting .256 with 19 home runs and 50 RBIs in the first half, but saw those numbers shrink to .210/9/27 in the second half. The next season, he hit .246/14/43 in the first 81 games and .291/28/56 in his final 72 games. Last season, it was .242/13/41 in the opening half and .304/21/52 in the final 71 games.
If Dozier does get red-hot in the second half of this season, there will be some who call for the Twins to keep him around for a few more years. He does provide rare pop for a second baseman when he’s going well. What those fans will have to remember is the lack of consistency the Twins have gotten from Dozier through the years.
Falvey and Levine won’t forget it and it’s why they are probably hoping for a second-half home run surge from Dozier that will enable them to get something in return for the veteran.