Should The Pirates Make A Run At Brian Dozier?

The Minnesota Twins are motivated to trade All-Star second baseman Brian Dozier, would he be a fit in Pittsburgh?

Throughout the offseason there have been trade rumors swirling around Minnesota Twins second baseman Brian Dozier. The Twins do not appear to be in a position to compete in 2017 and Dozier is one of the best two-way second basemen in baseball. Therefore, it makes sense for Minnesota to look to trade him.

Multiple teams have been connected to Brian Dozier this offseason. The Atlanta Braves, Los Angeles Dodgers, San Francisco Giants, and St. Louis Cardinals have all been connected to Dozier this offseason. While the Pirates have not been connected to Dozier, in my opinion, they should be.

On Friday, La Velle E. Neal III of the Minnesota Star Tribune reported that the Twins were asking teams for their final offers for Brian Dozier. This would indicate that the Twins might be ready to move Dozier. So time might be running out for the Pirates to get in on the Brian Dozier sweepstakes.

In 2016 Brain Dozier belted a career high 42 home runs. He also had an 8.8 percent walk rate, .370 wOBA, 132 wRC+, an ISO of .270, and a 5.9 WAR. All of these numbers dwarf those of current Pirate second baseman Josh Harrison.

Also, like Harrison, Dozier is a strong defender. Last season he had three defensive runs saved at second base and he posted a 2.3 dWAR. This came one season after posting a 3.7 dWAR in 2015.

Sep 4, 2016; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates second baseman Josh Harrison (5) reacts after hitting a double against the Milwaukee Brewers during the third inning at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Brian Dozier is not as strong a defensive player as Josh Harrison is. However, the difference is very minuscule. What is not minuscule, however, is the gap in Dozier and Harrison’s offense.

To be blunt, Josh Harrison is a bad hitter. The last two seasons his offense has progressively regressed from his stellar, but seemingly flash in the pan, 2014 campaign.

After posting a 137 wRC+ and a .175 ISO in 2014 those numbers dropped to 100 and .103 in 2015. Then in 2016, while is ISO improved slightly to a still well below league average .105,  his wRC+ plummeted to 87. Additionally, after being a 5 WAR player in 2014 Harrison’s combined WAR the past two seasons is just 2.8.

Josh Harrison’s plate patience has not improved at all either. After posting a 4.0 percent walk rate in 2014 and a 4.2 percent walk rate in 2015, it fell to 3.4 percent in 2016. For his career his walk rate is just 3.5 percent and that is why his career on-base percentage (.316) is so poor.

On the other hand, Brian Dozier has remained consistent. The past three seasons Dozier owns a 10.1 percent walk rate, .344 wOBA, 117 wRC+, and a 13.9 WAR. His .221 ISO the past three seasons is also extremely impressive.

Josh Harrison is not a good enough hitter to play everyday. The Pirates have a very strong lineup, but Harrison is the weak link in it. However, the Pirates are not going to pay Josh Harrison 7.5 million dollars to be a bench player in 2017.

Earlier in the offseason it was reported the Pirates were trying to trade Josh Harrison. The kick, though, was that they wanted to re-sign Sean Rodriguez to be the team’s second baseman. Once he signed with the Atlanta Braves, these plans went out the window.

It would behoove them to get his albatross of a contract off the books. I am a huge Neal Huntington fan, but, in my opinion, his biggest mistake as Pirate General Manager was the contract extension he gave Josh Harrison.

Adding Brian Dozier to the fray would make trading Josh Harrison easier. Dozier would be the team’s everyday second baseman, and Adam Frazier would become the team’s super utility player.

Additionally, Brian Dozier’s contract is much more team friendly than Josh Harrison’s is. While Dozier has less years of team control (2) than Harrison (4) does, his contract is still better. Brian Dozier is owed 6 million dollars in 2017 and 9 million dollars in 2018. Meanwhile, Harrison is owed 7.5 million in 2017 and 10 million in 2018. His contract also has a 10.5 million dollar option for 2019 and an 11.5 million dollar option for 2020.

Steamer Projections project Brian Dozier to post a 3.1 WAR in 2017. This is worth roughly 21 million dollars. Meanwhile, Josh Harrison’s projected WAR of 1.5 is worth roughly 10 million dollars. By this math, Dozier is a much better bargain in 2017 than Harrison is.

Defensively, Josh Harrison and Brian Dozier are very similar players. Both are above average defenders at second base, and, in fact, Harrison has a slight advantage in defensive metrics. Offensively, however, Dozier is infinitely times better than Harrison.

If I were Neal Huntington, I would make a serious push for Brian Dozier. Acquiring Dozier would also allow the Pirates to dump Josh Harrison. Potentially, the Bucs could trade Harrison for another starting pitcher. But, if it meant getting his contract off the books, I would give Harrison away for literally anything.

Even if Brian Dozier does not repeat his 2016 career year. Which, let’s be honest, he probably will not, he is still an above league average hitter. Steamers projects Dozier to belt 27 home runs in 2017 while posting a .340 on-base percentage, .202 ISO, and a 107 wRC+.

Meanwhile, Josh Harrison’s projections are not nearly as kind. He is projected to hit just 8 home runs to go along with a .315 on-base percentage, .124 ISO, and a wRC+ of 93. Those numbers are not good enough to be an everyday player and are not worth Harrison’s contract.

The Pittsburgh Pirates already have one of the five best lineups in the National League. However, replacing Josh Harrison with Brian Dozier could make it a top two or three lineup. And with the starting rotation still having some question marks, the team might need a top two or three lineup to return to the postseason.

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