Brian Dozier Would Be Perfect Fit in Rebuilding Dodgers' Flawed Offense

Zachary D. Rymer@zachrymerMLB Lead WriterDecember 1, 2016

Brian Dozier is at least as appealing as Ian Kinsler, and maybe even more so.
Brian Dozier is at least as appealing as Ian Kinsler, and maybe even more so.Brace Hemmelgarn/Getty Images

The Los Angeles Dodgers didn't get in on what was possibly the best season ever for second basemen in 2016. Chase Utley and others didn't provide much hitting, baserunning or defense.

Sounds like a good excuse to target a guy who can give them all three, and the first one especially: Brian Dozier.

In this context, his name may stand out most because he's not Ian Kinsler. The Detroit Tigers' veteran second baseman is the one the Dodgers have been most often linked to on the hot-stove rumor mill. 

But as Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports reported, the Dodgers also have Dozier on their radar. And, shoot, why wouldn't they?

The Minnesota Twins' 29-year-old All-Star is coming off a career year that featured an .886 OPS, 42 home runs and 18 stolen bases. With his contract running out and the Twins in need of more young building blocks, even Dozier wasn't blindsided when he was asked about a possible trade in September.

"Oh, really?" he told Mike Berardino of the Pioneer Press, apparently with his tongue firmly in his cheek. "I don’t read too much into that. All I can know is I’m here for two more years."

From the sound of things, a deal between the Twins and Dodgers is nowhere close to being done. Here's Berardino with a recent report:

Mike Berardino @MikeBerardino

Dozier talks b/t #mntwins and #Dodgers don't seem to have much traction at this point. "I wouldn't hold your breath," one official said.

There's no indication the Dodgers are close to a deal for Kinsler, either. We've already discussed how his talent and the $21 million remaining on his contract make for a high price tag. And since the Dodgers are on his no-trade list, he'll only accept a deal if additional money is involved.

Dozier doesn't have no-trade protection, but that doesn't necessarily make him easier to acquire.

With plenty of talent of his own and only $15 million remaining on his contract, the Dodgers would likely have to surrender at least one of their blue-chip prospects for Dozier—say, Cody Bellinger, Jose De Leon, Alex Verdugo or Grant Holmes.

However, it's not like the Dodgers can find a stand-in for Kinsler or Dozier on the open market. The second base aisle is barren. And if they're going to trade for one of them, Dozier's the one they should be leaning toward.

Nothing against Kinsler. He's been a great player his whole career and hasn't slowed down as he's advanced into his 30s. The 34-year-old has produced 17.8 wins above replacement since 2013, second only to Jose Altuve among second basemen. He finally won an overdue Gold Glove in 2016.

But on that last point, defense is the one thing Kinsler has done better than Dozier over the last three seasons:

Brian Dozier vs. Ian Kinsler: 2014-16
PlayerGPAHRSBOPSTotal OffenseTotal Defense
Brian Dozier46821029351.80059.03.2
Ian Kinsler46820805639.77540.334.5

Nothing against defense, either, but it's not one of the Dodgers' major needs. They finished tied for fourth in defensive efficiency in 2016, according to Baseball Prospectus. This despite the fact the advanced metrics rated Utley as a mediocre defender at second base.

Where second base really failed the Dodgers is at the plate, producing just a .723 OPS and 18 homers. Kinsler and Dozier both have the bats to fix that, but the extra appeal in Dozier's bat is hard to miss.

The 42 homers he slugged in 2016 are 10 more than Kinsler's ever hit in a season. They also kept alive a trend of Dozier's home run total increasing in each of his five major league seasons. He started with a humble six in 2012 and has gone to 18 to 23 to 28 to 42.

It's all in Dozier's approach. His consistently above-average walk rates reflect his strong plate discipline, and his swing is made to get the ball in the air to his pull side. His ground-ball-to-fly-ball ratio has settled well below 1.0, and nobody has pulled the ball as frequently as he has since 2014.

As Dozier's career .246 average can vouch, his approach isn't good for hitting for average. But with a solid .320 career on-base percentage to go with all his power, he rightfully doesn't care about that.

"I can look at my average and see I’m hitting .250-something," he told David Laurila of FanGraphs in August, "but if I can get on base at a .350 clip, versus a guy who’s hitting .300 and getting on base .330….300 doesn’t matter. If you can find ways to get on base and create runs, you’re being productive. In my opinion, that’s how you evaluate a player."

The one thing Dozier doesn't have is booming raw power, which does loom as a red flag regarding a potential move from Target Field to Dodger Stadium.

But courtesy of Baseball Savant, we see that most of the home runs he's hit in his career would have cleared Dodger Stadium's dimensions just fine:

Image courtesy of BaseballSavant.MLB.com.

Dozier's other appeal is that he's a right-handed batter who crushes left-handed pitching. He owns an .854 career OPS against southpaws and just peaked with a .965 OPS against them in 2016.

A hitter like that is something the Dodgers sorely need after posting an MLB-worst .622 OPS against lefties in 2016. And given that their second basemen posted just a .586 OPS against lefties, second base is an ideal place to slot an upgrade.

After all this, Dozier's other qualities come off as welcome bonuses.

He's an excellent baserunner, stealing his 74 career bases in 99 tries with plenty of extra value on the side. Since 2014, only seven players have accumulated more total baserunning value than Dozier.

And while Dozier's not on Kinsler's level defensively, he's no slouch. The metrics have been largely positive on his defense. If nothing else, the Inside Edge data shows he's money at making routine plays.

The Dodgers have the right idea in having Kinsler and Dozier on their radar as fixes for what ails them at second base. They're two of the game's best second basemen.

But since their prices are probably equal and the Dodgers need offense more than defense, Dozier's the one for them. Lucky for them, they still have plenty of time to strike a deal.


Stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com and FanGraphs unless otherwise noted/linked. Payroll and contract information courtesy of Cot's Baseball Contracts.

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