The St. Louis Cardinals have been doing a lot of window shopping this winter, looking at players including Josh Donaldson and Manny Machado, who are pending free agents.
The Redbirds couldn’t pry either of those two out of their current locale. But might it be worth their while to check out another 2019 free agent, Minnesota Twins second baseman Brian Dozier?
Like Donaldson and Machado, Dozier provides plenty of pop from an infield position. He launched 34 homers in 2017 to go along with 30 doubles. Like Donaldson and Machado, he also strikes out a ton with 141 whiffs last season. But it seems like no one cares about things like that anymore. Baseball is all about swinging for the fences these days. Despite his lack of contact at times, Dozier got on base at a more than respectable .359 clip. He also brings Gold Glove defense to the table.
So, would the Twins be willing to part with Dozier? That remains to be seen. It probably revolves around the club’s perception about if it is likely to be able to extend the 30-year-old infielder. At last word, Minnesota has no plans to try to re-sign Dozier before the end of the season. So there must be at least some concern about not being able to get on the same page and potentially fouling the upcoming season. The Twins have at least talked about the possibility of dealing Dozier, a Mississippi native. He has come up in trade rumors the last two seasons including talk that he’d be shipped to the Los Angeles Dodgers last summer.
Minnesota is trying to compete this season and there is no fire sale to motivate them. So the Cardinals can expect the price to be steep. However, St. Louis is uniquely positioned to be able to offer the small market Twins major-league ready prospects and controllable young players that can help them stay in the mix of the American League Central Division, both now and later.
If the Birds made overtures for Dozier, I’d expect Kolten Wong would have to be a part of the deal. First, it’s a match on the field. The Cardinals wouldn’t need another second baseman and the Twins would have a vacancy to fill. Minnesota would get three years of control of Wong, who makes a very affordable $4 million in 2018, plus an option year.
The Twin Cities might be a good landing spot for Randal Grichuk, if the Cardinals are inclined to trade him. Grichuk has 30 homer potential and is cheap and controllable. Minnesota could use the power he’d provide to offset the loss of Dozier, although the Twins already have four outfielders on their roster who are 26 or younger. What they don’t have on their roster or in the upper reaches of their farm system is a catcher. Their top minor league catcher, Mitch Garver, is ranked a B- to C+ Candidate by minorleagueball.com. He made it to the big leagues last year and hit .196 in 23 games. Also capable of playing first base, Garver projects as a backup/utility player more than a starting big league catcher. Minnesota also would likely be interested in young pitching and the Cardinals could afford to dangle either Dakota Hudson or Jack Flaherty.
If St. Louis decided to sacrifice such high-quality talent to land Dozier, they’d have to do so knowing they had a chance to keep him around for the long haul. It would be disastrous to give up a ton to get him only to see him walk at the end of the season. Based on recent history, I’d imagine Dozier would want at least a five-year contract that would pay him through his age 36 season. While the Cardinals are reluctant to pay players past age 35, Dozier is obviously going to be much cheaper to keep than Machado and he’s a year and a half younger than Donaldson.
Dozier, who has decent speed, might fit nicely into the third, fourth or fifth spot of the St. Louis order, giving some support to newly-acquired slugger Marcell Ozuna, although he typically batted in the leadoff slot for Minnesota. Another leadoff man is definitely not what the Cardinals, already stocked with Matt Carpenter and Dexter Fowler, need. I could see Dozier batting fifth against right-handed pitchers and third against southpaws because he crushed the latter to the tune of a Stan Musial like .331 batting average in 2017.