Brian Dozier has emerged as one of the faces of the Twins’ franchises in recent years, but he’s now on the precipice of free agency and has not been approached by the team about a contract he tells Jim Souhan of the Minneapolis Star Tribune and Rhett Bollinger of MLB.com. Dozier is earning $9MM this season in the final season of a four-year, $20MM contract which bought out all of his arbitration seasons. A new contract, though, does not look to be in the cards at this time, according to the infielder himself.
“I don’t want to touch too much on this, it’s the thing that gets asked all the time, but at the same time, I will be a free agent this fall,” Dozier said to Souhan. “That’s the bottom line. You can only say you want to be here so much, and nothing gets done.”
Dozier has, as he implied, stated on multiple occasions that he hopes to remain in the Twin Cities for the long haul. The lack of a spring extension certainly doesn’t preclude that from happening, though in-season negotiations are rarer, and his quality track record would figure to generate interest from multiple clubs next winter. While many Twins fans may hope for some late-developing negotiations, Dozier’s comments don’t lend much reason for optimism.
“I’ve said I wanted to stay here since forever, but I’ve really vocalized it the last couple years,” said Dozier (via Bollinger). “But I just don’t think it’s in their future, from what I’ve been told. … It’s pretty much black and white from what I’ve been hearing, which is upsetting, but you turn the page and play to win.”
A former eighth-round pick out of Southern Mississippi, Dozier debuted as a largely unheralded prospect and solidified himself as a quality regular before breaking out in recent years as one of the game’s most powerful second basemen. Over the past two seasons, the 30-year-old has slashed .269/.349/.522 with 76 homers, and he’s hit a total of 104 long balls over the past three seasons. He’s been a durable source of production in Minnesota as well, averaging 153 games and 686 plate appearances per year since his first full season back in 2013.
If the Twins are prepared to stick with internal options, they’ll have no shortage of intriguing up-the-middle players to turn to in the coming years. Jorge Polanco put together a huge two-month finish to the 2017 season and will open the ’18 campaign as Minnesota’s primary shortstop, though scouting reports have suggested that second base is his best position. Former top 10 pick Nick Gordon is on the cusp of MLB readiness and could occupy one of the two middle-infield slots in the near future. Royce Lewis, the top pick in the 2017 draft and Wander Javier, who received a $4MM bonus on the international market from the Twins, are further down the line but are viewed as potential key infield pieces in the long term.
Of course, going that route would likely weaken the Twins’ chances in 2019 when the team further hopes its young core has come into its own in an AL Central that’ll still have at least two rebuilding clubs (Royals, Tigers). That’ll all be factored into the ultimate decision of chief baseball officer Derek Falvey and GM Thad Levine, to be sure. One element that seems clear is that a lack of commitment to Dozier wouldn’t stem from payroll limitations; the Twins have just four players under contract for the 2019 season and somewhat remarkably don’t have a single dollar on the books in 2020 and beyond.
Dozier will turn 31 in May, meaning any new contract — be it an extension or a free-agent deal — would begin with his age-32 season. Dozier, Daniel Murphy and DJ LeMahieu will headline next year’s crop of free-agent second basemen, where they’ll be joined by a quality utility option also capable of playing second base in the form of Marwin Gonzalez.