The Dodgers are back to square one in their search for a second baseman. But square one is not necessarily a bad place to be.
The trade and free-agent markets are full of alternatives to the Twins’ Brian Dozier, and it’s not out of the question that the Dodgers’ talks for Dozier could revive.
Those discussions are at an impasse, with no momentum toward a deal, according to major-league sources. The impasse does not preclude future talks, but as spring training draws closer, the Twins had wanted to give Dozier a heightened peace of mind about his status with the club.
So, with Dozier out of reach — at least for the moment — the Dodgers are expected to circle back to earlier trade pursuits of the Rays’ Logan Forsythe and Tigers’ Ian Kinsler, both of whom, like Dozier, bat right-handed.
The Dodgers also could consider a number of free agents who play second base. A reunion with Chase Utley is one possibility. Luis Valbuena, Stephen Drew and Dustin Ackley are others. All of those players, however, are left-handed hitters, and the Dodgers’ clear preference is for a right-handed bat.
Indeed, if the Dodgers go for a left-handed, less expensive free agent at second, it would leave them with greater payroll flexibility and trade capital, positioning them to possibly trade for a right-handed hitting outfielder such as the Brewers’ Ryan Braun — a player whom they twice pursued last season — or the Pirates’ Andrew McCutchen.
Utley actually might be at a disadvantage if the Dodgers opt for a free agent. Valbuena, Drew or Ackley almost certainly would come at a discounted rate, enabling the Dodgers to continue exploring trades for one of the more prominent second basemen. Utley would be more difficult to displace, given the respect he has built within the organization and his standing in the game.
Forsythe, like Dozier, is under club control for two more seasons at below-market salaries — a combined $14.25 million, as opposed to a combined $15 million for Dozier.
Kinsler has a no-trade clause to the Dodgers, and his agent, Jay Franklin, told FOX Sports earlier this offseason that his client only will approve a deal if granted a contract extension at age 34.
The Dodgers’ talks for Dozier stalled when the teams could not agree on the package that the Twins would receive beyond right-hander Jose De Leon, according to major-league sources.
The Twins did not believe that the Dodgers’ offer included enough additional value, or that De Leon alone could carry a trade for Dozier, sources said.
The question for the Twins, if they indeed keep Dozier, is whether they can get as much for him at the non-waiver deadline or next offseason as they could from the Dodgers now.
Dozier struggled the first two months of last season, but rallied for 19 homers and an .824 OPS through July 31, the eve of the deadline. He finished with 42 homers and .886 OPS, both career-highs by significant margins.
The Dodgers were willing to part with De Leon and more knowing that Dozier’s season was an outlier, that he has never played in a large market, that he strikes out above the league average.
Whether the Dodgers and Twins adjust their value assessments in the days and weeks ahead remains to be seen.