One local franchise invited a cornerstone player to unpack his bags and stay awhile. Another team across town pushed a cornerstone player out the door.
One team is trying to maximize its opportunity to win a championship. The other team is engaged in a substantial roster reconstruction.
Dueling emotions greeted two significant developments within hours of each other on Tuesday: Vikings receiver Stefon Diggs signing a long-term extension and Twins second baseman Brian Dozier being traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Vikings fans had reason to celebrate. Twins fans better hope Falvine’s plan doesn’t belly-flop.
If evaluated by an emoji, one move gets a thumb’s-up, the other a frown.
The Vikings locked up another core player by signing Diggs to a five-year, $72 million extension. General Manager Rick Spielman and salary cap magician Rob Brzezinski continued to maneuver deftly around financial parameters in order to keep a valuable piece from reaching free agency.
The organization’s ability to retain star players who are in their prime while also handing quarterback Kirk Cousins a historic $84 million contract serves as a case study in savvy cap management.
Linebacker Anthony Barr’s contract situation remains unresolved on the team’s checklist. It’s unclear if Diggs’ deal will affect Barr’s extension talks, but there might be enough money left in the coffers.
If this was an either/or choice, the Vikings picked the right option. Keeping Diggs became imperative once the team signed Cousins.
Diggs and Adam Thielen give the Vikings perhaps the best wide receiver duo in the NFL. The organization invested heavily in Cousins, and his signing brought instant Super Bowl-or-bust expectations. Surrounding Cousins with as much talent as possible gives him the best chance of being successful. It’s just common sense.
One counterargument is that elite quarterbacks can elevate any receiver. Maybe, but give me a sure thing every time. Diggs is a sure thing. If he can avoid injuries, his production should only increase with stability at quarterback and offensive coordinator.
“I believe we have something special with the players that we have and the pieces that we added,” Diggs said. “Hopefully we can make this last for a long time.”
The Twins are operating with a different focus, as was made evident by their fire sale of veterans leading up to the final move, cutting ties with Dozier in exchange for two more prospects and veteran second baseman Logan Forsythe.
A disappointing season compelled new baseball bosses Derek Falvey and Thad Levine to shed veterans with expiring contracts in favor of stockpiling prospects.
Their plan is strategic, but moving a player with Dozier’s history and popularity inevitably invites criticism, especially in a situation like this with the front office essentially writing off the rest of this season.
Dozier has had a subpar season, no doubt. And his future with team appeared tenuous once the front office didn’t approach him about a contract extension this past offseason. But his struggles this season shouldn’t overshadow or diminish all that he brought to the organization.
He developed into an All-Star and one of the best power-hitting second basemen in the game. He won a Gold Glove. And he’s durable, on pace to play 150 games for the fifth consecutive season. Nobody ever questioned his desire or effort.
Off the field, Dozier took his leadership role and voice of the clubhouse as important duty. He probably irked management with his outspokenness on occasion, but he made himself accountable, never dodged questions and voiced his opinion on issues that matter.
He had flaws as a player, of course. He remains an inconsistent hitter, and it became concerning when he didn’t produce one of his typical hot streaks this season.
The Twins faced a deadline on Dozier with free agency looming. The front office clearly preferred to turn second base over to top prospect Nick Gordon rather than give Dozier a lucrative contract.
What’s unknown is whether Dozier had any intention of staying beyond this season. Maybe he wanted a change of scenery, too.
An interesting juxtaposition of circumstances happened Tuesday evening. Dozier prepared to board a flight to Los Angeles to meet his new team as Diggs held a news conference to discuss his long-term contract.
Neither scene was all that surprising.
Chip Scoggins firstname.lastname@example.org