Dozier out to show 2016 was no fluke

After offseason of trade rumors, star second baseman looks to build on record-setting campaign

Dozier out to show 2016 was no fluke

With Spring Training fast approaching, will take a look at a different aspect of this year's Twins squad each day this week. Today's topic: How's your star?

MINNEAPOLIS -- As hometown hero Joe Mauer's star has started to fade since suffering his career-altering concussion in 2013, second baseman Brian Dozier has emerged as the face of the franchise for the Twins.

But Dozier, with two years and $15 million left on his deal and coming off a career year that saw him hit 42 homers, was the subject of trade rumors throughout the offseason. He wasn't traded and is happy to remain in Minnesota, but said at the recent Diamond Awards he's not thrilled with the way the process played out and doesn't want to be viewed simply as a trade chip moving forward.

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"I don't want it to be always about 'I've got two years left,' all this kind of stuff. I don't want it to always be like a ping pong ball or something anytime an opening comes up and all that," Dozier said. "That's kind of been the disappointment through everything. I don't really know how to put it, but I don't want to be that up until the Trade Deadline and next offseason and stuff. I'm here and I'm trying to help this team win games, and that's what I'm here for."

Dozier, however, said the process didn't strain his relationship with the new front office, led by chief baseball officer Derek Falvey and general manager Thad Levine, as he met with them in person at the Winter Meetings to reiterate his desire to stay with the Twins. Dozier, regarded as a clubhouse leader, impressed the front office brass during the meeting.

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"You see the performance he had on the field, that jumps off the page," Levine said. "But then when you hear the convictions and the passions behind it, that's where you realize he's a championship-caliber player."

Dozier, 29, remains the club's most dynamic player as well, hitting .268/.340/.546 with 82 extra-base hits, 99 RBIs and 104 runs in 2016, while playing solid defense at second. He was also an All-Star in '15 and participated in the Home Run Derby in '14.

But with the Twins coming off a 103-loss season, the front office explored potential trades involving Dozier to help infuse much-needed pitching into the system. The Dodgers were the strongest suitor, but once they opted to trade for Tampa Bay's Logan Forsythe in late January instead, it made it all but certain that Dozier would remain in Minnesota.

Dozier will now remain a key cog in the Twins' offense as they hope youngsters such as Byron Buxton, Miguel Sano, Max Kepler, Eddie Rosario, Kennys Vargas and Jorge Polanco can take steps forward this year. Mauer, who has two years and $46 million left on his contract, remains entrenched at first base and is one of a few veteran position players on the roster, along with Dozier and newly signed catcher Jason Castro.

And as for Dozier, he's more than ready to show that his 42-homer season was no fluke.

"That's kind of been the talk of my entire career," Dozier said. "That's what fuels me. It's always been a fluke. I love that stuff. Whoever says it, keep saying it. I might hit 50."

Rhett Bollinger has covered the Twins for since 2011. Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.