The Milwaukee Brewers were officially outbid in their quest for Manny Machado, as earlier this evening a deal was finalized and announced that sent the now former Baltimore Oriole to the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Brewers hung around the negotiations until the bitter end, with their offer believed to be the “runner-up” among a pack of suitors that also included the Phillies and Yankees. Slingin’ David Stearns and company were apparently quite comfortable with the idea of parting with a significant package of players to acquire Machado, but the unfortunate reality is that Milwaukee’s farm system just couldn’t compete with the Dodgers’ and they wound up getting outbid.
We are now less than two weeks away from this year’s non-waiver trade deadline and with Machado off the market, the Brewers are free to turn their attention towards hammering out other deals. According to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, Milwaukee’s front office may have their eye on an infielder who plays just across Wisconsin’s western border:
Among the players the #Brewers are expected to target now that they have lost Machado: #Twins 2B Brian Dozier. Team also will explore pitching upgrades as well.— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) July 19, 2018
This is now the second report this month that has connected the Brewers to Brian Dozier, who has spent the last seven seasons manning an infield spot for the Minnesota Twins. Last week, Jon Paul Morosi reported that the Brewers were looking into Dozier as well as his teammate, shortstop Eduardo Escobar.
Dozier is a poweful hitter at the keystone who topped 20 home runs in four straight seasons from 2014-2017, including 42 dingers in 2016 and 34 last season. He’s well on his way to making it a fifth straight season of 20+ homers in 2018, having already put 16 balls over the fence so far in 93 games. But Dozier’s overall offensive line of .230/.314/.423 this season equates to only a league-average mark of 100 wRC+, well below the totals of 131 and 125 that he posted the two years prior.
A little bit of a deeper look into Dozier’s peripheral stats suggest that he is still largely the same hitter this season as he’s been in the past, however. His 19.6% strikeout rate almost exactly matches his career total, while his 10.4% walk rate is actually about a point higher. He’s hitting a few less line drives and a few more fly balls than he did last season, but his current hard contact rate of 36.6% would be a career-high. The major difference between this season and his previous two? Dozier’s .251 batting average on balls in play in 2018 is close to a 50 point drop off from last year and is 23 points below his career mark of .274. If the season ended today, it would the lowest BABIP mark of his career.
Dozier won a Gold Glove at second base last season, but the advanced metrics don’t feel that he’s even an average defender at the position. His defensive contributions across the last two seasons have been valued at -9 DRS and -3.1 UZR, though his offensive prowess throughout his career have far outweighed the slight negative that he brings with the glove.
After missing out on Machado, Milwaukee may be content in continuing to run out Tyler Saladino out as the regular shortstop for the foreseeable future. In 28 games and 84 plate appearances since being acquired from the White Sox, the soon-to-be 29 year old has hit .303/.361/.487 with four home runs for a 128 wRC+. He’s looked good at short, too, having accrued +4 DRS in 165.2 innings. At second base, however, the Brewers have received only a combined 69 wRC+ this season, the fourth-worst total in baseball. Even Dozier’s BABIP-deflated batting line would be a major improvement over that level of production. The combination of a “down” year and his status as a pure rental (he’ll qualify for free agency this winter before his age-32 season) should help to keep Dozier’s price tag at a pretty reasonable level.
In addition to Dozier, Rosenthal also suggests that the Brewers may be active in their search for pitching upgrades as well. The white whales of this summer’s starting pitching market are Mets’ co-aces Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard. It doesn’t seem especially likely that either hurler is dealt before the deadline, although deGrom’s agent recently suggested that the Mets should strongly consider moving him. In terms of more attainable trade targets, Milwaukee was connected to Rays’ starter Nathan Eovaldi this past weekend, and other starters on the market include the likes of J.A. Happ, Tyson Ross, and Matt Harvey. The Brewers could also elect to pursue an addition the bullpen, in which case Joakim Soria, Kirby Yates, Kyle Barraclough, Keone Kela, and Jake Diekman could be sensible targets for the team to pursue, among several others.
Statistics courtesy of Fangraphs