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Should the Pirates pursue Brian Dozier?

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Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Jesse Spector of the Sporting News lists potential trade partners for the Twins should they trade second baseman Brian Dozier, and comes to the initially surprising conclusion that the Pirates are the best fit.

The best fit among teams who have reportedly been in on Dozier, as far as positional need and ability to come up with an acceptable return, is the Dodgers. But there’s one team that hasn’t been mentioned that might be even better for Dozier, and that’s the Pirates.

Clearly, a lot of what Pittsburgh does the rest of the winter depends on a final decision about whether to keep Andrew McCutchen or ship him off. But Dozier fits very well with a budget-conscious contender and their current second baseman, Josh Harrison, can play anywhere on the diamond. Pittsburgh’s farm system is deep enough to maintain a talent pipeline even after making a big trade, all the more so if McCutchen is dealt – in which case Dozier would be responsible for replacing the former MVP’s offensive contributions.

Note that this is not a trade rumor, and there haven’t been any actual rumors connecting Dozier to the Pirates. The Twins have reportedly asked teams to submit final offers for Dozier, and the team that’s come up most frequently is the Dodgers. The Giants, Cardinals, Nationals and Braves have also come up as possibilities. It's also possible other teams could get involved, since almost any team would surely love to have a middle infielder who hit .268/.340/.546 last season.

Should the Pirates throw their hats into the ring, though? Dozier, like McCutchen, has two seasons of control remaining at reasonable prices, so acquiring him would be a win-now move that I’d think would go along with keeping McCutchen, rather than trading him. The Pirates would also have to pay a significant prospect price to acquire Dozier, so acquiring him would require the Bucs to put an awful lot of eggs into the 2017 and 2018 baskets. (Jose Quintana, in contrast, is controllable through 2020.)

Also, Dozier's greatest asset is his power, and he's a righty pull hitter whose home runs go almost exclusively to the left. That could be a problem in PNC Park, which mutes power to left field. And Dozier's 42-homer 2016 season was a breakout in what had previously been a career defined by good but not outstanding hitting, thanks to a pre-2016 career batting average of just .240. Trading for Dozier now might require the Pirates to pay heavily for a 2016 performance he doesn't seem likely to replicate, especially not in Pittsburgh.

Also, bumping Josh Harrison to a utility role would likely require the Pirates to send Adam Frazier, who currently figures to occupy that role, back to the minors. I might be overreacting to Frazier's fine hitting in 2016, but swapping Frazier for Harrison on the active roster might be little more than a lateral move at this point.

Obviously, though, swapping Harrison/Frazier for Dozier/Harrison wouldn't be a lateral move at all. Dozier is a good power hitter in his worst seasons, and his ability to draw walks gives him a high floor even if his power dips in PNC. He's also an average defender at second, a rare quality in a player with a 40-homer season under his belt. He's a far better player than Harrison. The Pirates can, as Spector notes, afford to add Dozier, and doing so would be a way to try to push what now looks like a good-not-great Pirates team over the hump. I wonder, though, whether Dozier is the right player to make that kind of move with.