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What is Brian Dozier Worth to the Cardinals?

The rumor mill is still swirling, and the latest has Brian Dozier linked to the Cardinals. Everything depends on the cost, so here’s where the Cardinals should set their reservation price.

Sorry if that headline sounded a little too much like something your economics professor would say, but it’s true. Whether or not the Cardinals should pull the trigger on a Dozier trade entirely depends on what Minnesota is asking. There is no doubt that he is an upgrade over Kolten Wong, but the Twins know that. The Twins also know that Dozier just hit 42 home runs, and will likely want to be compensated accordingly in a trade. Ultimately, I don’t know who or what the Cardinals are willing to give up for Dozier, but here is how I would set my reservation price for him.

Step 1: What can you count on going forward?

Some people have brought up the notion that we don’t know who the “real Dozier” is. Is he the 2015 version or the 2016 version? I believe that that is the wrong question. WAR generally tends to correlate more with the previous year than, say, the average of the past three seasons. Instead of trying to pick a season, I prefer to look at what caused the power surge in 2016. How much of it is sustainable? And then we should adjust his 2016 stats only, and not worry as much about what happened in 2015.

It is very unlikely that Dozier hits 42 homers again. Dozier’s HR/FB rate shot up by over five percentage points last season. While his hard hit rate did increase last year, it wasn’t enough to warrant that jump in HR/FB rate. With that being said, Dozier’s fly ball rate has increased each year he has played. Last year, it ended up at 47.7 percent. With a fly ball rate that high, Dozier should get to at least 30 home runs again. My best guess is that he ends next season in the low 30s, a respectable total despite the decline.

As for his batting average, that is a little harder to gauge. The thing that will hurt Dozier the most will be drop-off in home runs. Most of those will turn into outs, rather than singles or doubles. His BABIP of .280 last season is likely close to where he will end up again in 2017, maybe a little higher. Given those adjustments, Dozier’s batting average will likely end up in the .250-.260 range. Pair that with his career 9.1 percent walk rate and Dozier ends up with roughly a .330 OBP. Last year, there were only two second basemen to get to both a .330 OBP and 30 homers, and one of them was Brian Dozier. The other guy was some dude named Robinson Cano, who is making a good deal of money to do that.

Step 2: What is the alternative?

Put simply, the alternative is Kolten Wong. If there is no trade for a superstar, the Cardinals will be content to hand over the position to Wong in 2017. Wong may be able to hang with the .330 OBP, but he will never be able to hit 30 home runs in a season. Cardsblog writers disagree on Wong’s ceiling, but I don’t see him topping 15 homers in a single season. He brings a lot of other things to the table, but power isn’t one of them.

As for what Wong does bring to the table, baserunning and fielding are two things that he is very good at. However, Dozier isn’t that far off from Wong in these respects. Baserunning metrics pit them as roughly equal, while Wong does have a large advantage in the field.

Wong’s 19 DRS and 9.0 UZR at second base since his rookie debut rank among the best in that time. Dozier is no slouch in the field, but in nearly twice as many innings, he has 7 DRS and -4.4 UZR. Wong’s defense is worth roughly a half win more than Dozier’s over a full season, so he does make up significant ground there. However, that isn’t nearly enough to cover the gap in hitting.

Luckily, we have metrics that gauge total offensive impact at our disposal. Weighted Runs Created (wRC), is one that is particularly useful for this analysis. It essentially takes into account the number of each type of hit or walk that a player earned and the appropriate run producing power of that type of hit or walk for the season. If we prorate Wong’s numbers to a full season, then Dozier beat him by about 40 runs in 2016. That is equivalent to approximately 4-4.5 wins.

Obviously, the whole point of the first section was to realize that Dozier won’t be that great again. And, to a lesser extent, Wong might not be that bad again. Thus, we can’t count on a four-win difference each season. If we keep the projections that I came up with for Dozier and Wong, we are probably talking about 15-20 runs. Essentially, we are talking about two extra wins on offense, minus half a win on defense. For the next two seasons, the Cardinals should get an extra 1.5 wins if they trade for Brian Dozier.

Step 3: What is that worth in trade assets?

The hardest part, of course, is figuring out what that means the Cardinals should give up. You have to go through a similar projection with minor league players, and that is much tougher to do. None of the big names are in play here, as anybody worth more than 2 wins should be out of the question. However, Kolten Wong is probably the first guy that has to go in this trade. If the Cardinals are getting Dozier, then Wong means much more to another team than he does to them. The value probably can’t work for both sides unless Wong is in the deal.

Now, the Twins won’t stop there. You can probably assume that Harrison Bader is somewhat of a sticking point for them. Alex Reyes is off limits, but every other prospect will be in the Twins’ crosshairs. The two teams might even talk about Luke Weaver. If it isn’t Bader in the trade, expect multiple prospects in the Jack Flaherty, Delvin Perez, Austin Gomber tier. I can’t tell you how much those players will be worth exactly. However, more than Bader plus Wong could be a mistake. The Cardinals get a little more than 3 wins over two seasons because of draft pick compensation for free agents that leave (which they will get), but it likely isn’t worth more than Bader’s first six seasons.

In the end, Brian Dozier is a much better player than Kolten Wong. He can add a lot at the plate, in the base paths, and even in the field. That doesn’t mean it’s alright to pay anything for him, though, because the alternative option isn’t bad. Instead, the Cardinals should stick to a reservation price of Kolten Wong plus Harrison Bader, and they should do alright.

Photo Credit: Brad Rempel – USA TODAY Sports