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Are the Twins anchoring themselves in the best position to actually trade Dozier?

A local beat writer recently claimed the Twins have postured themselves “perfectly” in the Brian Dozier trade negotiations. I disagree, and here’s why.

Toronto Blue Jays v Minnesota Twins
Photo by Bruce Kluckhohn/Minnesota Twins/Getty Images

If you’ve been closely following Twins off-season news lately, you know that almost all of it revolves around the team potentially trading second baseman Brian Dozier. Since the Twins probably won’t be contending in 2017, and with Dozier being both their most valuable trading asset and older than most of the team’s main rebuilding core, dealing him makes sense—assuming, of course, the Twins get the right deal in return.

That point brings me to a recent blog post by ESPN 1500’s Derek Wetmore. Don’t get me wrong—I on the whole like Wetmore—but his post, entitled, “If the Twins are posturing over Brian Dozier, they’ve done a great job” gave me serious pause. In part, he argued:

So let’s assume for the sake of argument that their intent is to trade Dozier. Move a valuable asset coming off a career year with two affordable years of his current contract remaining. If that’s their intent, they’ve done a great job with the smoke screens.

What MLB organizations think and what fans (and media) think are not always perfectly aligned. But let’s use a fan poll as a proxy here, just for fun. In a poll posted online Tuesday morning at MLB Trade Rumors, readers were split on whether or not they think the Twins will trade Dozier. Like, perfectly split.

With more than 9,000 votes cast at the time this column was published, 50.78% of responders said they don’t think the Twins will trade Dozier, and 49.22% said the Twins will trade him.

That’s incredible to me. I think logic says they should make a move – but I think the public is also influenced by the perception that the hot stove season has cooled down.

That passage left me confused. If the Twins’ goal really is to trade Dozier for the best deal they can get, whatever that happens to be, how does acting like they don’t actually care about trading Dozier help them achieve that goal? The frank answer is that it probably doesn’t. The whole approach smacks of a girl (or guy) playing “hard to get” in attempt to elicit the best love-getting attempt out of a specific lover. Maybe it sounds good in theory, and maybe it works in some cases—but it’s a lot more likely to blow up in your face.

Why? In the case of trying to trade Dozier, the Twins acting like they don’t really want to trade him has a chilling affect on potential lower offers from both the Dodgers and other suitors. Those lower offers could actually serve as very useful starting points for further negotiations—as in, negotiations that could lead to more potential deals, and in turn, more realistic interest from more clubs that you could play off one another. Successful negotiations are usually a back and fourth exchange in which the two (or more) parties candidly discuss what their interests are and explore different ways they could mutually fulfill each others’ interests.

Instead, the Twins are effectively cutting off negotiation. “Wow us or don’t even waste our time,” is the signal the Twins are sending here, and that’s not negotiation. That’s an ultimatum. If that is truly the team’s intent, and they are perfectly happy with just holding on to Dozier, then there’s no problem. They won’t have to waste their time with a negotiation that is likely never going to lead to a deal they’d actually accept.

However, if their intent is truly to explore all potential avenues and deals for trading Dozier, the Twins are effectively cutting opportunities off with these hard-nosed, and in my opinion, amateur negotiation tactics.

Think about it. Imagine you saw a merchant on the street selling a watch you really liked and (fairly accurately) thought was worth about $30. You inquire about the watch and the seller says, “I will accept nothing less than $200!” What would you do? Probably laugh at them and walk away—right? Because they probably won’t accept anything near your valuation, even if it’s more objectively reasonable. But what if that seller said instead, “The price is $45!” Well, that’s a lot more closer to your initial valuation, so heck, maybe you’d counter that you’d pay $35, and then the seller counters with $40, and you agree to that. That actually seems fairly reasonable—you got the watch for more than your initial valuation, but still less than the seller’s asking price.

Look at what just happened there. The seller offering the watch for $45 actually got the better deal than the seller demanding the much higher $200. The former got $10 more than you initially valued the thing at, while the latter got nothing.

This entire concept is actually a well-identified phenomenon in negotiation psychology referred to as “anchoring”. There’s even an entire Wikipedia article specifically about it, if you are interested in learning more.

Hence, what I find troubling in the Twins’ negotiation tactics with Dozier so far is that they seem to be “anchoring” negotiation offers at a higher than realistic point in an attempt to extract a bigger return. If they are only interested in trading Dozier for higher than realistic returns, no problem! But if they are honestly interested in making some kind of Brian Dozier deal happen, they are doing themselves a disservice with the way the are posturing themselves—not just because they are cutting off potential deals, but because they could be coming off as amateurs to those with actual professional training in negotiation.

Hey, not saying that is the case! I don’t know what the actual intent of the Twins front office is here. I don’t know what they are actually offering or what others are actually offering either.

Just saying... I don’t see anything here from the Twins’ new front office that is cause for praise quite yet.