What a difference a year makes for Twins second baseman Brian Dozier.
As he gets ready for TwinsFest at Target Field from Jan. 19-21, it’s a long way from where Dozier was at this time last year when it seemed like every news outlet was reporting various trade scenarios the team was considering for the All-Star slugger.
Now Dozier is coming off a season in which he finished 11th in the American League MVP voting, won his first Gold Glove, hit a career-high .271 and reached the playoffs for the first time.
“It is quite a bit different. It’s kind of funny how winning can change a lot of different things as far as offseason trade talks,” he said. “I recognize it’s a business. We all do. But it has been pretty relieving not hearing my name every single day about where I might be traded. That’s a good thing.”
Over the past three seasons, there’s a good argument to be made that the only second baseman better than Dozier in all of baseball was the Astros’ Jose Altuve, the 2017 American League MVP.
Dozier has hit .258 with a .335 on-base percentage over those three seasons, and averaged 155 games, 35 homers, 35 doubles, 90 RBI and 104 runs scored in that stretch.
And now his defensive merits have been rewarded with a Gold Glove.
“I think it’s a pretty cool award,” Dozier said. “When you win these kinds of things and all that stuff, it’s not just you. I have good coaches, good players around me and that kind of thing, to make myself even better. I wish they had given out nine for the Twins, that would be cool.”
The other Twin to win a Gold Glove this season was center fielder Byron Buxton, though most people in baseball and especially around the Twins thought Joe Mauer deserved one for his play at first base.
Dozier talked about how a player of Buxton’s caliber can elevate the entire defense.
“When you look at Buxton and what he was able to do last year and is going to continue to do, the guy separates himself from all of the other elite defenders not just because of the web gems and stuff like that, but the amount of balls he gets to that other people cannot get to,” Dozier said. “Whether it’s in the air or on the ground, saving a double and backtracking it to a single, stuff like that, each and every game.
“I hate to say it, but it kind of became routine that if it didn’t happen, it was kind of like, ‘Wow, what happened?’ We got spoiled last year with Byron out there.”
Free agent after 2018
Dozier, 30, will be a free agent after the 2018 season. He will be paid $9 million in the final year of a four-year, $20 million deal signed in 2015.
Dozier said so far, there haven’t been discussions about an extension.
“There has been none whatsoever, zero conversations about after next year,” he said.
Mauer also will be a free agent after the 2018 season. Dozier said what Mauer, 34, will consider after the end of his eight-year, $184 million contract is all up to him.
“You’d have to ask Joe about his future plans,” Dozier said. “He has one year left, as I do myself, but the thing with Joe is Joe has been a pretty dang good player for 14 years now in the league. I don’t think he has really had a down year.
“When you look up [statistics] and people think he had a down year, it’s still pretty good around the league. I think we got spoiled for so long when he was putting up MVP seasons year after year. Joe is a heck of a player. I don’t know what the future holds for him, but we have some guys on the team that it’s their last year after this year and we’ll see what happens.”
After the franchise-worst 103 losses in 2016, Dozier said the clubhouse dramatically changed in 2017 and that helped take the team to 85 victories.
“I have learned from a lot of people before myself that knew how to run a clubhouse,” he said. “You mix Joe Mauer and Matt Belisle, who was kind of the leader of that pitching staff, it makes for a fun year. When you control the clubhouse and make it fun, instead of uptight and strict [with] rules and those kind of things, when you make it fun I think the game becomes more fun. That’s what kind of happened.”
And when it comes to this young group of players coming in behind veterans such as Dozier and Mauer, he likes what he sees.
“These are guys that have been in the league for two or three years now and had a little bit of success,” he said. “You want to see guys, anybody can have a good year but you want to see them replicate it. I think we’re going to be very good for a long time. Looking around our lineup and our pitching staff, there are a lot of good, young players that are going to have success in the big leagues.”
Does this team need to add pitching to contend for a title?
“That’s up to the brass, and they’ll figure out ways to make the team better,” Dozier said. “Everyone keeps saying about pitching, and I think they’re working pretty hard this offseason to try to bring in some, but right now you go with what we’ve got and we’ve got guys that need to step up, plain and simple.”
• Since Mike Zimmer took over as Vikings head coach in 2014 he has dominated the Bears, posting a 5-2 record. The Vikings are 11-point favorites against the Bears in the regular-season finale Sunday.
• The Bears have had six quarterbacks start for them since 2014: Jay Cutler, Jimmy Clausen, Brian Hoyer, Matt Barkley, Mike Glennon and current starter Mitch Trubisky. The Bears have to wonder if Trubisky is going to pan out after they traded four draft picks to the 49ers so they could move up one spot and draft him No. 2 overall.
• One of the big issues for the Bears is they signed Glennon to a three-year, $45 million deal in the offseason, then drafted Trubisky and paid him $29 million over four seasons. Glennon started the first four games and posted a 76.9 passer rating before being benched for Trubisky, who has been only slightly better with a 78.5 rating in 11 starts.
• Sunday’s game could be John Fox’s finale as head coach of the Bears. Fox is 14-33 over three seasons in Chicago and the team hasn’t improved much. The Bears have had three head coaches in six years, with Lovie Smith from 2004-2012, Marc Trestman from 2013-2014 and Fox starting in 2015.
• While the Vikings have a new stadium, Soldier Field has been open since 1924 and got its most recent renovation in 2003 when they spent $690 million to add the second level.
Sid Hartman can be heard on WCCO AM-830 at 8:40 a.m. on Monday and Friday and at 9:30 a.m. on Sundays. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org