Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Breaking Down Where The Twins And Dodgers Broke Down

It wasn't the 11th hour, but times were getting desperate in Los Angeles. The Dodgers had spent the entire winter talking with the Minnesota Twins about the possibility of acquiring All Star second basemen Brian Dozier. Needing a second basemen to fix a glaring hole occupied by the aging Chase Utley a season ago, the Dodgers needed to act. In the end, they did, but it wasn't with the Twins.

Trading pitching prospect Jose De Leon to the Tampa Bay Rays for Logan Forysthe, the Dodgers found their man. Forsythe is 30 years old, and under team control for the next two years (with an $8.5m team option for 2018). He was worth 2.8 fWAR in 2016, 4.0 in 2014, and -0.5 three years ago in 2014.

How does that stack up against the Twins Dozier? Brian is just a bit younger still at 29, but is also under team control for each of the next two seasons. He was worth 5.9 fWAR as an All Star in 2016, and has been worth 2.5, 4.7, and 3.3 fWAR from 2013-2015 respectively. While very similar, the Twins two bagger is the slightly superior big leaguer.

In dealing De Leon straight up for Forsythe, the Twins position that there man was worth more than a 1-for-1 deal becomes immediately justified. Where the Twins maybe outkicked their coverage, was in who they were asking for along with the top pitching prospect. Names like Yadier Alvarez, Walker Buehler, and Cody Bellinger were all thrown around. Los Angeles had no compelling reason to move any of those three, and it's understandable why they'd draw a line there. Had Minnesota stepped back to Brock Stewart or Willie Calhoun, they may have found a more willing dance partner.

At the end of the day, it comes down to opportunity cost for Los Angeles. In nabbing Forsythe, they get a lesser second basemen than the one the originally were targeting, but they also hold onto more of their assets. De Leon has some shoulder concerns, and the Dodgers have been said to be lower on him than other organizations may be. While Stewart and Calhoun aren't top tier guys, they provide strong depth that now stays on the farm. Los Angeles decided the added boost from Dozier wasn't worth the premium price tag.

With it being all but certain now that Dozier stays in Minnesota for the forseeable future, the Twins have left themselves with a couple different realities at play. First and foremost, Derek Falvey and Thad Levine stepped in and had an immediate strong showing. As noted at the end of Nick Nelson's piece, the way in which the front office stood their ground was impressive, and is something Terry Ryan probably wasn't known for. It will absolutely influence how other teams go about business with the Twins new brass in the future.

Secondly though, the Twins have kept one of the best second basemen in all of baseball on their roster. The harm in that in and of itself is nil, the downside comes in how he is supported. At this point, the free agent market is left with virtual holdovers saved for a few names. There's not a significant impact player or two that is going to turn the Twins reality around. Dozier deserves to have talent brought in to supplement his play, but spending to do so is something the former regime wound up doing far too often.

Instead, the Twins should sit and wait. Last season was a mirage of sorts in that the club wasn't the blueprint of a 103 loss team. Pitching was awful, and the offense was nonexistent at times, but the youth expected to carry the group mostly was trying to find its way. You can make the argument that even an upward trend towards mediocrity should give the Twins a realistic shot at something like 80 wins in 2017, and that'd be a heck of a turnaround in and of itself.

That being said, Dozier can dictate how Falvey and Levine support him. Should he back up his incredible 2016, or really just stay somewhere in the middle of his past two seasons, he could become a trade candidate to a contender in July. More likely though, he gives Minnesota some strong play, and factors into their 2018 plans as well. With money owed to Glen Perkins and Joe Mauer quickly nearing a close, Minnesota will have plenty of funds at its disposal to bring in impact players both on the mound and in the field for the 2018 season.

Right now, the Cleveland Indians remain well positioned in the AL Central. Outside of that though, the Royals are treading water, the Tigers are aging, and the White Sox are reliant on a full scale rebuild. If the Twins want to spend and supplement a year from now, it's hard to scoff at the idea they'd have a shot at being at least a divisional contender.

Stocking the farm is something that Levine and Falvey need to make a priority. The reason it's bare though, is because of the talent having graduated to the big league level. It'll be on the backs of the former top prospects that a turnaround needs to happen for the Twins. Asking Brian Dozier to be a part of that is far from a bad idea, and spending on the group as a whole a year from now would make everyone happy.

As Spring Training approached, the Dodgers balked on the game of chicken first. They looked at an opportunity cost being too steep and went a different direction. The haul Minnesota likely deserved was never there, and the organization was right by holding serve. Now it'll be on them to follow up the second half of the process and make Dozier feel supported throughout the lineup.

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