The Minnesota Twins gave second baseman Brian Dozier a new contract, covering his eligibility for salary arbitration in the coming years.
The deal wasn't long enough to affect his future timing of free agency, but Dozier sounded as though he's never planning to be on the open market. Minnesota has quickly become a place he's comfortable playing, despite being yet to experience a winning season in his major league career.
Dozier agreed to a $20 million, four-year contract with the Twins on Tuesday, a deal announced before Minnesota's exhibition game against Toronto.
"We explored a lot of different things," Dozier said at the team's spring training home in Fort Myers, Florida. "They know my desire to be here and spend my entire career here. I love it here, but at the same time it's what seems the best fit for both sides."
Dozier already was under contract for this season, at $590,000 in the majors and $324,000 in the minors. The new deal will give him $2 million this year, $3 million in 2016, $6 million in 2017 and $9 million in 2018. He would be eligible for free agency after that.
"Hopefully this is a steppingstone for something possibly even longer," Dozier said.
Last season, Dozier batted .242 with 23 homers, 33 doubles, 71 RBIs, 89 walks, 21 steals and 112 runs. The only other Twins with at least 20 homers, 20 steals and 100 runs were Kirby Puckett in 1986 and Corey Koskie in 2001. The 27-year-old Dozier will still only be in the middle of the pack of annual average salary at his position.
Dozier tied for sixth in the majors with 707 plate appearances in 2014, his second full season as a regular in the lineup. He made 15 errors last year and has unremarkable range, but he has developed into a stellar double-play pivot man and has several highlight-reel glove grabs. Dozier's 475 assists were second in the majors last season, and he was voted by the Twin Cities chapter of the Baseball Writers' Association of America as the team's best defensive player.
"He has character. He's a good man. He's good in the clubhouse," general manager Terry Ryan said. "People follow him. We wouldn't extend this type of dollar figure and security to a guy that we don't trust. We trust him, on and off the field."
The 156 games he played in last year factored in, too.
"He's out there and he's available. That also is an issue when you start extending people. You don't want part-time guys or guys with a history of injuries. He plays. When you get a guy that goes up there 700 times, there's no doubt that's a pretty good definition of an everyday guy."
Contracts with younger players before they hit free agency often include option years for the team at the end, but this one didn't.
"Nothing changes except for maybe 400 or 500 more acres of duck-hunting land," the Mississippi native joked at the news conference to announce the deal.
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