It’s been awfully stressful if you’re a Brian Dozier fan lately. With regular talks of him getting shipped off to Los Angeles, it makes sense to fear that the current second baseman’s days are numbered in Minnesota.
Moving through the stages of grief, many fans have arrived at acceptance and are looking towards the future. With a hole likely to come at second base, surely the Twins must be looking for Dozier’s replacement. With the Dodgers being the likeliest suitor for Dozier’s services, some have turned their eyes to Willie Calhoun, a 22-year old lefthanded hitter that impressively slugged 27 home runs with a solid .215 isolated power at Double-A last season. There have also been rumors that the St. Louis Cardinals may have wanted Dozier, which led fans to suggest that current Cards second baseman Kolten Wong would be a good piece to return to the Twins. The 26-year old Wong disappointed offensively last year but he has exhibited good plate discipline in the majors and has consistently rated above-average defensively according to both UZR and DRS in his career. Though the Cardinals could relegate Wong to the bench, it certainly makes some sense that he should be involved in a potential Dozier trade as well. I’ve even seen the suggestion that the Pirates are a trade partner with their second baseman Josh Harrison as part of the return.
While the actual level of interest from St. Louis and Pittsburgh is questionable, this fact is not. The Twins don’t need to look for their second baseman of the future because he’s already employed within the organization: Jorge Polanco.
The issue with failing to consider Polanco as a second baseman is that many Twins fans believe he is actually the shortstop of the future. Honestly, it’s an understandable misconception. He did spend the vast majority of his time at short (55 of 69 career appearances have been at the position) and there currently aren’t any other obvious shortstop candidates on the roster. Unfortunately, this ignores that the organization hasn’t treated him as an actual shortstop. Yes, he has split a lot of his time between both middle infield positions throughout his career, but this past season was a tale of two levels. While in a Twins uniform, Polanco spent most of his time at shortstop, but he was almost entirely a second baseman while in Rochester. It’s not as if there was some stud prospect blocking Polanco on the Red Wings roster, either, as Wilfredo Tovar and Heiker Meneses earned all but three appearances at shortstop last year (those remaining three went to Danny Santana). You shouldn’t feel bad for not recognizing Tovar and Meneses as the former has all of nine major league appearances while the latter has none.
If Polanco was truly the shortstop of the future, I’d imagine that he’d be getting more consistent playing time at the position rather than bouncing around second and third base as well. With mixed reviews regarding his defense at shortstop, it’s entirely possible that a Dozier trade frees up second base for Polanco. However, that causes us to move on to another question. Who plays shortstop?
Well, just like the answer to the second baseman of the future being on the roster, I feel the Twins also currently employ next year’s shortstop in Eduardo Escobar. Admittedly he had a down year offensively in 2016 and his defense is also a bit questionable at short, but he has shown that he’s perfectly adequate at the position. While his 2012, 2013, and 2016 seasons were all horrendous at the plate, he spent 2014 and 2015 as a league-average hitter and does offer some upside if he could regain his form from those two years.
While fans may feel that the Twins need to acquire a second baseman to replace Brian Dozier, I don’t think that it’s necessary. Jorge Polanco is ready to step into the position and Eduardo Escobar can return back to shortstop as he did for 2014 and 2015. Though some would rather continue to see if Polanco can indeed hold down the shortstop position, I feel it would be more beneficial for him to solidify his standing at the position that appears to be his most likely future destination.