Rumor Check: Brian Dozier

Last night Cardinals Twitter was abuzz at the idea that the Cardinals were in talks to acquire Minnesota Twins’ second baseman Brian Dozier. Darren Wolfson, a reporter for the local ESPN affiliate in Minneapolis, called the Cardinals very much “in the mix” for the second baseman who has also been linked to the Los Angeles Dodgers and the San Francisco Giants this winter.

The rumors seemed to indicate that John Mozeliak knows that the Cardinals still need another impact bat in their lineup and is looking for ways to add one. I can’t disagree with that assessment as I’ve suggested since last winter that they were still a bat away from being a legitimate contender. But Mark Saxon, who covers the Cardinals for ESPN, tweeted this morning that the organization is not “actively pursuing” Dozier.

But there is so much that that could mean.

The returns to Minnesota for Dozier would seem to include Kolten Wong along with a top pitching prospect, seeing as the Dodgers are rumored to have offered one of their top pitching prospects in Jose De Leon with the Twins still looking for more.

The question immediately becomes whether such a trade makes sense for the Cardinals. To determine that, we need to figure out what the Cardinals have to compare.

The two in house options at second base for the Cardinals would be Wong and Jedd Gyorko. So let’s look at them.

Wong struggled to begin the season, but came on comparatively strong at the end of the year after a brief demotion. That makes him difficult to accurately project into the coming year, but I think a 2.0 WAR for Wong is his floor if he’s given the opportunity play every day. That’s what he would have gotten in 2016 when you project him out to 500 plate appearances, which is how much playing time I believe he should be getting. But he also has the potential to be so much more if he could be the player he was in the second half last year.

Gyorko posted a 2.9 WAR last season in a career year. Being a career year alone makes it easy to question his ability to duplicate that. To an extent, his WAR was also carried by the first positive defensive WAR of his career and it was 1 WAR better than any previous season he’s had on defense. Even if he beats out either Jhonny Peralta or Wong for the bulk of playing time at their positions I think a 2.0 WAR from him is optimistic.

That leaves Dozier.

At 29 years old, Dozier hit .268 with 42 home runs last season and posted a 6.2 WAR. That WAR made him the 11th most valuable hitter in baseball last season. But consistency is a big question with him.

Over the past four seasons, Dozier’s WAR has varied between a low of 2.4 WAR and a high of 6.2 WAR with no two seasons with 1.5 of the previous. That’s a cause for concern if you’re looking to give up a lot to get him. But I think it’s safe to suggest that Dozier’s floor would be what we got from Gyorko last season and probable that he settles in around a 4 WAR player going forward.

So the question that Mozeliak has to ask himself is what is that extra 1 to 2 wins worth? Is it worth a 2.0 WAR player and a top pitching prospect? The trade market this winter would suggest yes, but I’m not too sure I buy it.

Dozier definitely has the potential to make the Cardinals’ lineup stronger, but I don’t see him as a clean up type hitter. I like to consider RBI rate in this situation and Dozier had a 14.6% RBI rate last season in his highest since 2013. The Cardinals have five returning players who had higher RBI rates than Dozier did last year, so I think he would settle in fifth or sixth in my lineup.

Regardless, it still creates a deeper lineup and that is always a positive. And finding a guy who can play solid infield defense while contributing with the bat is not easy. Dozier can do that.

The addition of a player like Dozier would make the Cardinals’ lineup more projectable, but there’s too many questions and moving pieces to be able to say that he will make the Cardinals better. Which Dozier do we get? Do we get the 6 WAR one or Gyorko 2.0 one? Is this the year Wong puts it together?

Because of the risk involved in the answers to those questions, I don’t see this as a trade that Mozeliak is likely to pull the trigger on.