Monday, December 26, 2016

Armchair GM: Can/Should the Giants Trade for Brian Dozier?

OK, time to play armchair GM.  I'll throw the question out there.  It's a 3-parter:

1.  Could the Giants put together a trade offer the Twins would accept?

2.  If they could, should they pull the trigger?

3.  If you were Bobby Evans, what would be your final offer?

First some background:  Brian Dozier is coming off a breakout season, which is saying something because he was already a pretty darn good player.  He broke out for an astonishing 42 HR's after hitting 18, 23 and 28 in the 3 prior seasons leading up to 2016.  He also stole 18 bases, slashed .268/.340/546 with 8.8 BB% and 20.0 K% for an fWAR of 5.9.  Dozier is in the middle of a very team-friendly 4 year contract with an AAV of $5 M with total of $15 M owed over the next two seasons, $6 M in 2017 and $9 M in 2018.

The Twins might consider trading Dozier because they have a new GM and are entering into a major rebuild and Dozier will be a FA and out of their price range long before they are ready to contend.  The Dodgers have been rumored to be interested all offseason, but so far have apparently not budged from an offer centered on RHP prospect Jose DeLeon, who has lost his luster in the minds of some analysts. The Twins have not accepted and should not accept a trade for Dozier in which Jose DeLeon is the centerpiece.  After all, they are not yet in a position where they have to trade him.  The Giants have started showing up more and more in rumors as having interest in trading for Dozier.  Today in MLBTR, the Giants are reportedly "trying to get creative" to find a deal that would work for the Twins.  The Nationals and St. Louis Cardinals are also rumored to have interest.

Just to get the discussion started, my answer to Part 1 is "I don't know.  The answer to Part 2 is Yes, they should.

I'll start with my "final offer":

Giants trade Joe Panik, 1 of Chris Shaw, Austin Slater or Steven Duggar, Joan Gregorio and Melvin Adon for Dozier.  *Joe Panik is an established MLB 2B who could immediately replace Dozier and has 4 years of control left on his contract.  The Giants would not need Panik over the next two years if they acquired Dozier.

Would that get it done?  Would you include Tyler Beede if the Twins insisted on a frontline pitching prospect?  I believe my above offer is significantly better than anything I've read about the Dodgers offering mainly because the Twins are getting cost-controlled established MLB talent as part of the return package.


  1. It's not a bad offer. But I wouldn't make the trade for two reasons:

    First, I don't think Dozier's power-component of his offense will remain that high. I think park AT&T factors alone would drive Dozier's offense significantly down. Also, I don't believe 42 HR/year is his base. I think he's really a high-20s HR guy. He's also been, even with his best offensive year last year, sub .250 hitter with a 20% K-rate which limits him where he can bat in the order.

    Second, I don't believe Panik is washed-up as a hitter. His walks were up. His K's were down. His contact numbers were all better than 2014's when he hit .305 with a .343 BABIP. The only real difference in contact last year from 2015's (.312 with .378 BABIP) was a bit down in hard contact and up in medium contact. Yet his BABIP fell to .245. I have a hard time believing that's Joe Panik. I really think he's a .280+ hitter. Plus, I think he'll keep his very good (Gold Glove) defense.

    In the end, I don't see Dozier as better over the long-haul than Panik. More power, lower average, more K's, poorer (but not substandard) defense, but we lose 2 years of Panik AND a prospect. So, no, I wouldn't make the trade.

    1. Panik has been hurt 2 years in a row, right? Dozier has a longer track record of production with a much higher peak plus the power factor.

      I agree you have to assume a regression from 42 HR's. Very few players can sustain 40+ HR seasons, but If you look at Dozier's HR progression, it's not hard to see him hitting 60 over the next two years, which is a huge upgrade on Panik's power. As for Park Factors, Target Field is near neutral(1.014) while AT&T is extremely suppressive(.700). So, let's say if Dozier stayed in Minnesota we'd expect him to hit 30 dingers. He plays half his games at home so he'd lose 30%, which is 4.5. Round that to 5 and he'd hit 10 at home and 15 on the road= 25 HR's with the Giants. Still about double what we would expect Panik to hit at his peak.

      It just seems to me you have to have a ton of faith in Panik staying healthy and still having more in the tank in terms of peak production to not think Dozier is a significant upgrade.

    2. To get Dozier for Panik plus is to buy high and sell low. Dozier is coming off a very good year, Panik off a weak one. Add in Panik's injuries to lower his price further, and one gets a trade situation that ought to make one nervous. I, like Moses, am not so sure that Dozier is so significant an upgrade: in 2015, Panik ran up a 4.1 fWAR in his incomplete season, with a wRC+ very much like Dozier's in 2016. And wRC+ seems to me a better measure of offensive value than number of home runs.
      Panik wRC+ of 136 in 2015, Dozier wRC+ of 132 in 2016, his breakout year.

      When I saw that the Giants were interested in Dozier, I assumed that it was for third base, where yes, I would like to see him able to play. But that's academic if a trade for him would involve surrendering Panik.

    3. Everyone is an injury risk. Even Dozier who had an oblique strain in the second-to-last game and missed the last.

      Could have happened anytime during the season (like Pence and his 09/15 strain) and he would have missed a month, or more, of the season and been hampered the rest of the year. And, on a playoff team, he wouldn't have been there, leaving the Giants with a bench player to fill the hole. So, lucky for him and the Twins it was late season and they were so far out of the play-off hunt it didn't matter.

      Also, Dozier is 29 to Panik's 26. Peak years are 25-28. And while there are survivors who beat the peak, they're survivors and you don't know someone can beat (if only imperfectly) the very rough regression until they do. Dozier has passed the plateau of the aging curve and is starting down that steep slope to mediocrity that few players avoid. Panik won't hit it for three more years.

      Part of that fall comes from as a player ages, he becomes more prone to injury. You have the cumulative effects tearing the body down as well as the aging process itself that starts to make soft-tissue-type injuries more common. Look at Pence, Pagan, Span and Blanco. All 30+. All injured. Every year for the past couple of years.

      So, yeah, I get the injury argument. But anyone can get a concussion if hit in the head at any age. (And the older you get, the more likely from my understanding.) And the vertebrae fracture... I got one too. When I was 16. It happens and it's a bit of fluke when it does. And that Panik has gotten dinged this way in two seasons which would raise flags for lots of people. It's not entirely illegitimate. But I don't look at his injuries anything more than flukes as opposed to the cumulative effects of aging and the grind of professional sports.

      So I'm more concerned with the aging-injury issues like hamstrings and strains and obliques and ACL/MCL and other soft-tissue injuries you're more likely to get as you age. And Dozier is far closer to that part of his career than Panik (and, like I mentioned, had his first one last year). So, for me, it's not nearly as significant an issue that Panik got the injuries he's gotten as the oblique with Dozier which is more the type of 'getting old in a young-man's game' injury and possibly forwshadows a long-term turn-down in production because of injuries.

    4. You can't buy low and sell high in every transaction. At some point you have to acquire proven talent. Yeah, I expect some improvement from Panik in 2017 although I don't have much faith in his ability to stay healthy. I also expect some regression from Dozier. The gap is pretty wide, though and I fully expect Dozier to be worth at least 4 more wins than Panik over the next 2 seasons.

      Where do you get peak years are ages 25-28? I've always considered peak age to be 27-32.

    5. You remember Carl Lewis? The sprinter? I took an interest is sports physiology vis-a-vis age performance way back then because he broke the aging curve for sprinters by setting a world record at 30 by 'running the best race I ran in my life.' Ironically, his career pretty much crashed at 31.

      And what I learned is that every athlete has two curves. Ability curve (speed, coordination, etc) and skill curve (technique/experience). While they over-lap, they're not identical. Physical athleticism peaks early - at 25-to-26 for 'sprint' type sports (like baseball, basketball, tennis). Skills tend to peak later (30s if they survive till then). In short, the head compensates (through skill) for what the body can no longer do as well (through decline) but time tends to catch all athletes.

      For baseball, we can go read a number of studies, using different methods, have pegged peak age between 27-29 (the larges over-lap of peak-skill and peak-athleticism). However, if you use WAR as your measuring tool, it's 25-through-28. And I was using WAR. In the WAR curve there are more 2-WAR players at age 25 than any other age and a very slow (and insignificant) decline sets in through Age 28. At age 29 the decline becomes clear, though not terribly serious. However, by 31 it's pretty obvious. By 35 the decline has eaten up almost all of the player-pool.

      So for personal reasons, I like the WAR curve over the academic studies because, as I alluded to, the older you get the more injury prone you get. And if you're not on the field, who cares about your 'peak potential when healthy?' Your back-up is on the field, not you.

      But there are compensations which always cloud the issue. Certain 'skill/technique' attributes get better and some players can beat father time in certain aspects. Like how Big Pappy went out with a bang as a DH. With age strike outs tend to decline. Walks tend to increase. Even as explosive, raw power drops technique can compensate for the loss of that raw, explosive power (to some extent). Peak speed and acceleration drops. Reaction time starts to slow. Injuries become more common. Feilding becomes more problematic. Hence the WAR drops due to poorer defense even as a player can compensate through technique on offense.

      So, with Big Pappy, he was a DH who played 5 innings at 1B for the entire year. So he was well rested as they didn't tax him at all. So he could keep hitting with his very advanced technique while compensating for his loss of bat speed and explosive power. But if he was playing 2B, he'd have been a disaster because he really couldn't move anymore.

      But all sports have these curves. Not just baseball. In basketball the peak is at 27. Football's peak is at 28 (except QBs). Tennis the peak is 25. And while individuals may, through great skill, 'beat the curve' they're still on a curve. A super-star curve perhaps. Sprinters the peak is around 27 however, long distance runners the peak is early 30s. For swimmers, it is 26.

      Which is why the mean average athletic world record is set at age 26. Some earlier or later, true. But sports are a young-man's game. And guys like Big Pappy are rarities.

      And I'm not going to trade a three-year-younger Panik who is a gold-glove 2B for a power-hitting 2B who just hit his first decline year.

      So, to me, sometimes the best trade is the one you didn't make. Kind of like how not signing Sandoval was, in the end, a great FA boone...

      tl;dr -- Most all professional athletes peak early and start to decline after age 28. Rare exceptions beat the curve. I don't care about the rare exceptions because they're rare and nobody knows which ones will or won't.

    6. Dozier's 2016 slash line against LHP is .282/.352/.613, career is less but still good.
      He probably would help the Dodgers more than the Giants, but if SF got the advantage of Dozier and LA doidn't, there's a significant plus in that at least short term.
      De Leon is still considered LA's best (isn't he?), so maybe it would take Beede plus something, maybe Panik, maybe not. Let them pick from a healthy list.
      With Dozier in SF, if Panik stays, Nunez could go to left and Joe to 3rd -- he too was drafted as a SS.

    7. Nice! That absolutely taught me a few new ideas. Thanks for your thoughts Moses.

      However, that said - Sometimes you need to gamble that a player is not going to crash-decline precisely around 30. Dozier's upward trajectory is clear and does not need to begin decline this year - But regardless, I think you have good concluding point here about Panik - 3yrs younger, GG defense, and add in the contractual benefit of a reduced cost over greater number of years.

      But, with THAT said, I wouldn't balk at grabbing a guy of Dozier's talent. If the Twins can throw in a high leverage relief pitcher, this could be a serious deal.

    8. Moses,

      I refer you to an article by JC Bradbury in Baseball Prospectus, January 11, 2010 in which he refutes Bill James' assertion that players peak at age 28. The actual peak is 29-30 when you count only players with at least 10 year careers and the peak "arc" of the aging curve is age 28-32.

  2. No to trading Beede. Giants will need him after this season. Happy with Panik, even though getting Dozier with you proposed package of prospects would obviously be an upgrade. Was surprised to see Dozier DWAR is higher than Panik's. Would seriously boost the power in the lineup, even if last season turns out to be a career high for him, but I get too attached to players and would rather keep Panik. He will hit for average again next season and with better pop than most think.

    1. Career wise:

      Panik takes 38.47 games to generate 1 fWAR.
      Dozier takes 43.96 games to generate 1 fWAR.

      Dozier has better offense, Panik is a more complete 2B when all factors are figured in. And that includes Panik definitely had a bad year with the BABIP at the plate last year. Dozier definitely had his best year ever. And yet...

      I think what's skewing WAR, at first glace, are Panik's injuries in 2015 & 2016 which has kept his playing time down. And since WAR is a cumulative stat, the fact Dozier has 312 starts to Panik's 227 over the past two years is going to favor Dozier.

      OTOH, I think Panik's 'injury issues' are just random injury bad luck rather than a chronic problem. He played 154 games in 2014 between AAA and MLB as well as playing full seasons in A+/AA in 2012/2013. So I don't think he's a true 'injury risk' player.

    2. How many "random" injuries does it take to become an injury risk?

    3. Three years of perfect health after college, maybe no injuries in college... But now two fluke injuries make him a risk? I can't buy that premise that two injury impaired seasons (concussion, broken vertebrae) make him an injury risk.

      WHen I classify a player as an 'injury risk' player, I'm looking at the guys with all the soft-tissue injuries. Oblique strains. Hamstring pulls. Quad pulls. Groin pulls. ACL/MCL tears while running.

      So, Pagan is an injury risk as he's constantly coming up with these kind of soft-tissue injuries. Pence is now, in my book, an injury risk for the same reason, but not for his broken hand which was a matter of physics.

    4. You don't think a fractured vertebrae is a risk for future injury?

  3. Yeah, I would make that trade. When I heard the Giants were in it, this seemed like the only realistic route. A big part of it is timeline. I really like the outlook of next year's team and Dozier is an upgrade. And it still helps 2018 too when they will have to make some moves. These are a big couple years still in the prime of Buster and Mad-Bum's careers not to mention Belt, Crawford, Cueto, Pence etc.

    It depends what you think of Dozier. He doesn't seem like a Dan Uggla type to me who was a relatively non-athletic guy with just a ton of power. I think he was a SS in the minors, and he's an athletic player who found a swing or approach that changed his game a bit. That doesn't mean he's gonna stay 40+ HR, but I also don't think the 28 HR level was his real talent.

    I love Panik, but this isn't that difficult a decision for me. These next couple years are so valuable and I think the team has some different avenues to replace what Panik could be in 2019. While I still think he's going to be a very valuable 2B the remaining four years, I think the injuries at least temper the possibility him being a career Giant and someone they would've extended.

    1. Yup. I hadn't really even thought about the Giants trading for Dozier until a worried Dodger fan asked me why the Giants would want to trade for Dozier when they already have Panik. That got me to digging into it and I concluded the Giants may well be able to top the Dodgers offer if they include Panik, and there is really no reason not to since Dozier plays the same position.

    2. There is also the added benefit of keeping the Dodgers grubby mitts off Dozier.

    3. Although I realize the Giants can't block every big Dodgers acquisition.

  4. Dozier's got that great swing on the inside pitch for down the line homers - AT&T has a shorter LF porch than Target Field - Panik on the other hand would love hitting in Target Field as the RC and RF fences are much shorter. I'd say no to trading Austin Slater or Tyler Beede - the Twins might like Parker for that leftie power as a throw-in with Panik, he might blossom as an everyday outfielder there....Maybe leave pitchers out of this one?

    1. I can see no to trading Beede, but Slater? The Giants are loaded with OF prospects!

  5. If they could do it without trading Panik, I could see it. Panik was a better offensive player in 2015 than Dozier was in 2016 and he just won a gold glove. I love his line drive swing/approach for ATT. Sure, he's gotten hurt, but he back thing is behind him and the Giants traded for Matt Moore, so he can't hit him in the head again.

    My biggest concern is, at some point, you can't sign everyone. The Giants need 4 years of Panik as much as anyone else does. They don't have a 2B waiting and they might not have the money to extend Dozier. Plus, if you're giving up Duggar/Slater, you're giving up your replacement for Span or Pence. Cost is, rightfully, high and Giants don't have enough elite prospects to take that hit.

    1. What is Panik going to do for 2 years while Brian Dozier plays 2B for the Giants? Of course you include Panik! That's why the Giants have a leg up in this bidding if they are serious about wanting Dozier.

      As for 2019 and beyond, Hinojosa could move over to 2B. But more than that, by 2019, the Giants are going to be facing some serious rebuilding with most of their core players entering their mid-30's. The window is there in the next 2 years. You worry about the future beyond that when it comes.

    2. I understand why you'd include Panik, but in 2019 the Giants could still have under-30 players at 2B, 3B, and all three OF spots around BCraw, Belt, and Posey. That and a rotation of MadBum, Moore, Samardzija, Beede, and Blach/someone else. I disagree that there's a rebuild coming. They've finally set themselves up to cycle in younger players and appear to be willing to commit to them (Mac). The more they push for players like Dozier, the more they compromise that flexibility.

  6. To stop LA from getting Dozier is worth a player not named Arroyo or Beede (they are likely needed in 2018 and Blach is probably needed for 2017).
    Panik is redundant for 2 years and who knows what happens then?
    Shaw, ok, any other pitching prospect, and throw Ray Black in, too.

  7. Hey DrB, hope you had a merry Christmas! I hadn't heard the Giants were still in the mix for Dozier. That's GREAT news. If you have a chance to trade for a 20-40 HR infielder, you absolutely have to try to make it happen in my opinion. Coming off a 42 HR campaign, and signed to such a reasonable deal, the Twins really don't need to be in any hurry to move him. That's what makes me think it would take a Panik/Beede/Shaw combo to make it happen. Would I make that deal? Probably. Would the Giants? I can't really say. But I can tell you swapping Panik for Dozier would be a major, major upgrade... and I really do like Joe as a ballplayer.

    Hope all is well.

    Cove Chatter

    1. Good to hear from you, Covechatter. Still visit your site daily to check on the Twitter Feed.

  8. Another reason the Giants can trade Panik AND whomever for Dozier is named Kelby Tomlinson who can be the regular 2Bman AND lead off hitter in 2019.
    Arguably, Tomlinson is as good as Panik other than power. He is faster, possibly better at getting on base, and his fielding has picked up remarkedly after a slow start.
    He is Duffy-lite in grinding it out.
    He wouldn't make anyone forget Dozier's HR's, but he's a solid 2Bman in traditional ways.
    I don't care whom else the Giants give up along with Panik, but wrestling Dozier from the Dodgers should be the prime objective and if they don't denude their prospects achieving that, GO for it!

    1. And if it's that important to keep Dozier away from the Dodgers, then you have to believe he would be a pretty big upgrade on Joe Panik at 2B and Tomlinson could continue being a reserve/utility guy.