The Twins have yet to speak to Brian Dozier about a contract extension, the second baseman tells Sid Hartman of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. With Dozier entering the last season of his contract, the two sides have had “zero conversations about after next year,” Dozier said.
The lack of negotiations isn’t necessarily a surprise at this point in the offseason, of course, as most teams generally handle focus on signings, trade talks, and arbitration cases before turning their attention to in-house extensions. (This winter’s particularly-stalled free agent market could even delay extension business later into Spring Training than usual for some clubs.) Beyond Dozier, the Twins also have Joe Mauer and Eduardo Escobar slated to hit the open market after the 2018 season, with Ervin Santana and Fernando Rodney also candidates for free agency depending on club options.
Still, Dozier stands out as Minnesota’s top impending free agent priority, though the idea of an extension between the two sides (or even Dozier still being in a Twins uniform entering 2018) seemed far-fetched at this point last year. Dozier has long been the subject of trade rumors, and at one point in the 2016-17 offseason seemed to be on the verge of being dealt to the Dodgers. Even last summer, Dozier was one of several Twins veterans the team was weighing as trade chips, though Minnesota eventually rebounded to capture a berth in the AL Wild Card game.
Last season’s surprising success changed the equation for the Twins, who are now exploring ways to build around its young core of talent in the hopes of contending again next year. As such, keeping Dozier now looks like it could be a possibility, particularly since Minnesota has quite a bit of payroll flexibility beyond the 2018 season. (Of course, the Twins might add to those future commitments in a significant way this offseason should they land a top free agent pitcher.)
Dozier is finishing up a previous extension with the Twins, a four-year/$20MM deal that covered his final pre-arbitration season and his three years of arbitration eligibility. That contract ended up being a nice bargain for the Twins through Dozier’s arb years, as he has continued to perform as one of the game’s best second basemen, particularly over the last two seasons. Dozier has hit .269/.349/.521 with 76 homers and 34 steals (out of 43 chances) over 1396 PA since the start of the 2016 season, accumulating 10.9 fWAR over that period. From 2014-17, Dozier has been worth 18.8 fWAR, a total topped by only 13 other position players in all of baseball.
Dozier turns 31 in May, so an extension carries some risk as it would be covering a potential decline period as he leaves his prime. The lack of return on the Twins’ extensions for Mauer and Phil Hughes could also make the team wary about another long-term deal. On the flip side, Dozier has been a durable player, and 2017 was his most polished season yet as a hitter, with Fangraphs’ Jeff Sullivan noting Dozier’s increased success at hitting to the opposite field.
In his preview of the Twins’ offseason, MLBTR’s Steve Adams cited Daniel Murphy’s three-year, $37.5MM deal with the Nationals or Justin Turner’s four-year, $64MM Dodgers contract as potential talking points for a Dozier extension, with Turner’s deal standing out as the better comparable. One interesting wrinkle could be the fact that, without an extension, Dozier would be competing with several other superstar players in the very crowded 2018-19 free agent class. Dozier would have an advantage, however, as the clear top option on the second base market.
If an extension isn’t worked out, the Twins will likely explore trading Dozier at the deadline if the team falls out of contention. For now, however, it looks like the Twins aren’t moving the second baseman, which is something Dozier appreciates after so much past speculation. “It’s kind of funny how winning can change a lot of different things as far as offseason trade talks,” Dozier said. “I recognize it’s a business. We all do. But it has been pretty relieving not hearing my name every single day about where I might be traded. That’s a good thing.”