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Advantages of a less-insular front office

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Bringing in new voices from outside the organization probably gave the Twins a particular advantage in the Brian Dozier trade talks.

MLB: General Managers Meetings
Thad Levine talking with some other schmuck from the Cardinals.
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

At one point this off-season, it almost seemed like a trade between the Twins and the Dodgers involving Brian Dozier was a done deal. The Dodgers had the pitching the Twins desperately needed, and the Twins had the expendable veteran second baseman the Dodgers sought. Talks were chugging along until sometime in mid to late December when they apparently reached an impasse.

After a month with no movement, the Dodgers made a deal for Rays second baseman Logan Forsythe instead, effectively killing the Dozier talks once and for all.

So what happened? While it’s impossible for us to know for sure, I have a few interesting observations I want to point out.

First, Dodgers pitching prospect Jose De Leon is actually a lot more suspect than I originally thought. John Sickels over at Minor League Ball ranked De Leon as the Dodgers’ top prospect earlier this month, and LA had reportedly wanted to trade him in a one-for-one deal for Dozier. The Twins refused.

Instead, the Dodgers ended up trading De Leon one-for-one for Forsythe—a less valuable player than Dozier. The next day, Bill Shaikin of the LA Times said this:

The Dodgers do not trade their elite prospects.

That is the simple answer to why the Dodgers were willing to trade pitcher Jose De Leon to the Tampa Bay Rays on Monday, for second baseman Logan Forsythe. For all the hype around De Leon, the Dodgers did not consider him one of their elite prospects.

Oh?

The same day, Mike Berardino of the Pioneer Press published some interesting comments from a conversation he had with Rick Knapp, an international pitching coordinator for Major League Baseball:

“Nothing against De Leon, whom I love, but Dozier is an all-star,” said Knapp, who spent the past four seasons working as a pitching coordinator in the Dodgers’ minor-league system. “The guy hit 42 home runs last year. If the Dodgers were trying to get Dozier straight-up for De Leon, that’s a bad deal for the Twins. The bottom line is it doesn’t make sense.”

Knapp—who also used to work in the Twins organization and still has friends here— went on to mention some issues with De Leon’s delivery that required maintenance. He believed a more fair trade would be De Leon plus power-prospect Cody Bellinger. Sickels rated Bellinger as the Dodgers’ number two prospect behind De Leon, but according to rumors, the Dodgers considered Bellinger untouchable.

Well... huh.

The second observation I wanted to point out was the timing of the negotiations. Talks began to slow down and reach an impasse around mid to late December. What else happened around then? The Twins hired Jeff Pickler—the former special assistant of professional scouting and player development for guess who? The Dodgers.

Although the Twins actually hired Pickler to be on the Major League Coaching staff, his position there is unique. He is meant to serve as a “conduit” between the front office and the rest of the coaching staff, whatever that exactly means. In any case, Pickler undoubtedly came with a lot of intimate information about the Dodgers prospects, a fact that did not go unnoticed.

Could it be that Pickler cautioned the Twins front office that a package centered around De Leon might not be worth the cost of Dozier? It’s entirely speculation on my part, but looking back at how the off-season progressed, I thought it was worth pointing out.

In any case, I can’t imagine how the addition of Pickler did anything but help the Twins.