Dodgers Trade for Brian Dozier, Basically

Sometimes there are trade rumors that aren’t really true. We tend not to know about those until after the fact, but the false rumors tend to be the fleeting ones. Then there are the rumors that just don’t go away. That’s when you know there’s smoke. And there was all kinds of smoke billowing out of the rumors that linked the Dodgers to Brian Dozier.

It all added up, and there was no point in anyone issuing any denials. The Dodgers needed a second baseman, and Dozier is a good one. The Twins could stand to flip some quality assets, and Dozier is a good one. We got to know more than we usually do — the Dodgers put Jose De Leon on the table. That’s where the teams got stuck. The Dodgers liked what they’d be getting, and the Twins felt the same. They just couldn’t reach an agreement on a second prospect to go to Minnesota. The Twins held out, and the Dodgers wouldn’t budge.

And so, in the end, the Dodgers haven’t added Brian Dozier. Instead, they called up the Rays, and added basically Brian Dozier. The cost was De Leon, and nothing else.

Dave already talked about this a little last week. The Dodgers were very clearly in the market for help, and Logan Forsythe was present as a Dozier alternative. Forsythe is the lesser-known player, which is saying something, given that Dozier himself is a relatively little-known player. But while Dozier’s is the bigger name in baseball circles, it might not be possible to find two more similar second basemen. You can see why the Dodgers elected to go this route; Dozier just wasn’t worth the stress.

Forsythe bats right-handed, and according to our player page, he stands 6’1, 195. He was born in January of 1987. Dozier bats right-handed, and according to our player page, he stands 6’0, 190. Dozier is under contract for two more years, and $15 million. Forsythe is under contract for one more year, but there’s also a 2018 club option, and the combined value is $14.75 million. They’re effectively equal, given that it would take a lot for Forsythe’s option to be declined.

Dozier is something of a late bloomer, and he really took off in 2014. Forsythe is a late bloomer himself, and he took off in 2015. He’s been a regular player the last two years, playing mostly second base. Here is how the two players compare over these past two seasons.

A 2015 – 2016 Player Comparison
Player PA K-BB% wRC+ Hard-Soft% Contact% 2B UZR 2B DRS UZR WAR/600 DRS WAR/600
Brian Dozier 1395 12% 117 13% 79% 2 -2 4.0 3.8
Logan Forsythe 1182 12% 119 20% 81% -1 9 3.5 3.9

By strikeouts and walks, they’ve been the same. By overall batting value, they’ve been the same. UZR sees Dozier as, very slightly, the superior defender, but DRS disagrees with that, so we can compromise and assume they’re essentially equal there, too. I’ve calculated two WAR rate stats, one using UZR like usual, and the other plugging in DRS instead. You can hardly tell the numbers apart. Forsythe has the worse projection, but he’s being penalized for what he was in 2014 and earlier, and that’s just no longer too relevant.

Of course, Dozier just slugged a bunch of home runs. Forsythe, not so much. Dozier is thought of as more of a power source, while Forsythe runs the superior BABIPs. But for one thing, as the wRC+ up there shows, it doesn’t mean much in the end. And Dozier has played in the more homer-friendly environment. Both hitters have run higher-than-average launch angles, and if you can believe it, Forsythe has posted the better average exit velocities in each of the last two years. Dozier has the homers, but Forsythe has the contact quality.

If there’s one place where the players really diverge, it’s in where their batted balls go. Dozier has developed a reputation for trying to pull everything to left, and as much as that might feel exploitable, it’s clearly worked for him for this long. Forsythe used to be more of a pull guy, but this past year, he reached a new level in opposite-field hitting.

Logan Forsythe’s Improvement
Season Split PA ISO wRC+
2011 Opposite 26 0.077 -22
2012 Opposite 70 0.043 12
2013 Opposite 33 0.094 62
2014 Opposite 67 0.111 64
2015 Opposite 107 0.125 86
2016 Opposite 108 0.318 164

Forsythe just had 17 extra-base hits the other way, with eight homers. Before last year, he totaled 20 extra-base hits the other way, with two homers. He was one of just 21 players to have at least 100 batted balls to the pull side, up the middle, and to the opposite field, with hard-hit rates of at least 30% in every direction. Though Forsythe’s overall numbers didn’t surge forward, he showed signs of becoming a more complete hitter, which makes him easier to buy into.

Forsythe and Dozier just don’t look that different. Dozier has a slightly longer track record, and he provides maybe a little more on the bases. But you can see why the Dodgers settled here. If Forsythe is worse, he’s probably only a little bit worse, and that’s not worth adding another quality prospect. Giving up De Leon is already tough.

That’s another key point here. Even though I’ve spent all this space effectively calling Logan Forsythe underrated, Jose De Leon is his own kind of underrated. Actual observers have never loved him quite as much as statistical analysts, but the minor-league numbers are extraordinary. As a starter in the upper levels, De Leon has struck out literally a third of all the batters he’s faced. While he’s done that, he’s also run a single-digit rate of walks. The two best things a pitcher can do are throw strikes and miss bats. De Leon, to this point, has done that against quality competition. His major-league sample is just 17 innings.

Among those who scout the stat line, De Leon looks fantastic. His fastball comes in around 91 – 92, so it’s not easily dismissed, and he’s really known for his changeup. If there’s one thing left for him to do, it’s improve his breaking ball. That’s why he’s considered unfinished, but already just having one good secondary pitch gives him a leg up. And with that pitch being a changeup, De Leon is strong against opposite-handed bats.

Oh, but there’s that other thing, too — we’ve just talked about De Leon on the mound. He missed a stretch of time last season with arm soreness, and that’s one of those classic red flags. I already said the two best things a pitcher can do are throw strikes and miss bats, but all the talent in the world doesn’t mean anything if you have trouble making consistent turns. As much as every young pitcher is a health risk, one has to consider De Leon’s risk level to some degree elevated. I’d say that’s why the Dodgers were willing to trade De Leon in the first place. They have the depth to absorb this, but De Leon could lose a chunk of his value overnight.

For the Rays, it’s always the same. They’re a little worse off today than they were yesterday, but they added more surplus value. De Leon could bust, but he’s theirs for up to six years, and he seems like he’s already a big-league starter. This gives the Rays the option of moving another big-league starter, and on and on it goes. Every year, you can squint and see the Rays as fringe contenders. They’re right there again, with another intriguing pitching staff. Maybe things’ll go better than they did in 2016. Couldn’t really go worse.

As for the Dodgers, I wouldn’t say this was something they needed to do, but second base was the biggest hole. So it’s filled now, filled with another Dodgers player who’s better than people think, and the Dodgers as a whole are better than people think as a consequence. Multiple projection systems see the Dodgers as presently being the best team in baseball, and that’s important, since they might have the strongest second-place challenger. The Giants are good, but the Dodgers are better. The gap is widened, with the Dodgers having found an alternative to the player they wanted the most.

The offseason didn’t end up with Brian Dozier going to California. But in a way, it really did, at least in the way the Dodgers care about most. Your move, Minnesota.

Jeff made Lookout Landing a thing, but he does not still write there about the Mariners. He does write here, sometimes about the Mariners, but usually not.

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7 years ago


But also good and interesting.

7 years ago
Reply to  jruby


“Giving up De Leon is already tough.”

No it isn’t. Getting Something for De Leon is the __point__. Jose De Leon is the chariot in Cinderella.

Jose De Leon did not have some arm soreness last year, De Leon had “shoulder inflammation” and this is a continuation of shoulder inflammation which has dogged De leon every year of his minor league career. Despite being a starter De leon has exhibited work loads that resemble a relief pitcher.

Jose De leon’s shoulder is the clock in Cinderella, the hands rapidly moving toward twelve midnight. The “Dream Team” knows what happens to De leon when the clock strikes twelve. The goal of the Dodgers’ F.O. was to “get something for De leon” before he turns into a pumpkin.

Sandy Kazmir
7 years ago
Reply to  JimmieFoXX

Is his shoulder a clock or a chariot? Pick a side.

I think most folks that think the Rays cleaned up here undervalue the risk with DeLeon and underrate how good of a player Forsythe has been and figures to be going forward. The Rays could absolutely win this deal hands down, but a lot of that is up to the arm of a young man. The risk associated here makes me queasy, but the chance to get a mid to top of rotation guy would be hard to pass up.