The Dodgers have seemingly courted Brian Dozier for years. Last offseason, they seemed to settle for Logan Forsythe to fill their second-base needs. But the desire lingered and, in the final hour leading up to Tuesday’s 4 p.m. non-waiver trade deadline, the Dodgers and Dozier finally got together.
The price of Dozier on Tuesday was cheaper than it was two years ago when the Twins refused an offer of Jose De Leon, who was later shipped to the Rays for Forsythe. To acquire Dozier, the Dodgers sent Forsythe and minor-league pitcher Devin Smeltzer and corner bat Luke Raley to the Twins. Neither was ranked by FanGraphs among the Dodgers’ top 21 prospects in the spring.
While the cost came down, Dozier, 31, is nearly two years older and perhaps not the same player. He’s also headed to free agency after the season. Still, this is a trade about today for the Dodgers. Second base is a real need for Los Angeles, and even a subpar Dozier, whose 91 wRC+ represents a six-year low, is a real upgrade.
Dodgers second basemen have produced an anemic .213/.303/.287 slash line to date, ranking 28th in the majors in wRC+ (66) and 27th in second base WAR (-0.3). Forsythe (55 wRC+), Chase Utley (84 wRC+), and company were just not getting the job done, producing a drag effect on the lineup.
The Dodgers’ biggest position-player deficiency was at second base against left-handed pitching.
New second baseman Brian Dozier, from 2015 to now, against left-handed pitching: .272/.360/.522.
— Pedro Moura (@pedromoura) July 31, 2018
The Dodgers have ridden the game’s macro-level trends about as well as any team in recent years. They’ve manipulated the 10-day DL, have employed an opener, limited pitchers’ trips through lineups, and were willing to give more dollars and years than any other club to Rich Hill’s unconventional pitch mix two winters ago. (Hill’s usage is now becoming more and more conventional.) Justin Turner has preached the power of the air ball to teammates like Chris Taylor. In Dozier, they get another hitter with natural loft and pull-side power.
Dozier has hit more fly balls than ground balls in every season since 2012, and he’s pulled at least 50.3% of all contact in every season since 2013. He’s pulled fly balls and line drives at an extreme level, posting two of the most pull-heavy, air-ball seasons since 2014.
And while his approach has perhaps changed a bit this season — perhaps the Dodgers can get him back to his extreme pull-happy ways — he continues to pull balls in the air at an above-average rate, ranking 43rd (37.9%) out of 337 hitters to have put at least 50 batted balls in the air this season. He has four of the top 51 homer seasons to the pull side since 2014.
Dozier’s 2016 spray chart:
Dozier’s 2018 spray chart:
Air balls hit to the pull side are generally very favorable outcomes for hitters. As Community Research contributor D.K. Willardson found, the de-juiced ball has exerted a greater effect on power to the opposite and center field as compared to the pull side.
Despite holding just a half-game lead over the D-backs in the NL West, the Dodgers remain favorites according to FanGraphs’ playoff odds, entering the day with 74.9% probability of winning the division compared to Arizona’s 16.3% mark. Only the Astros (23.2%) had greater odds to win the World Series than the Dodgers’ 15% mark.
Still, you can understand why the Dodgers, like any contender, wanted to improve themselves on Tuesday while not sacrificing too much of tomorrow. You can understand why they might have so much comfort in projections while seeing the D-backs hanging around as we approach August.
The trade, along with the addition of John Axford on deadline day, helped move their World Series odds more than any other team according to some outside projections. The Dodgers have now been significant buyers at each of the past two trade deadlines, clearly placing a value on the extra percentage point or two an addition can mean for World Series odds.
As for the luxury tax? The trade will not affect the Dodgers’ ability to remain under the tax threshold as they position themselves for an offseason when they figure to have some interest in continuing to employ Clayton Kershaw and/or Manny Machado after this season.
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) July 31, 2018
For the Twins, they get a couple minor leaguers for a player in Dozier who is a free agent at the end of the season. The Twins appear to understand their postseason prospects are slim, holding 0.3% playoff odds and entering play Tuesday seven games under .500 and eight games back of the Indians. The Twins gain some lottery tickets for tomorrow while the Dodgers rightly try and win today.