Brian Dozier and Lance Lynn, two Major Leaguers so familiar to Mississippi baseball fans, received new leases on their baseball lives at the trade deadline Tuesday.
Both 31-year-olds were traded from the struggling Minnesota Twins to perhaps the two most iconic franchises in baseball. Dozier is now a Los Angeles Dodger. Lynn is now a New York Yankee.
Both Dozier, a former Southern Miss standout, and Lynn, who pitched in college for Ole Miss, will be free agents at the end of the season, so they may not wear their new uniforms for long. But, clearly, the Dodgers and Yankees made the trades believing that the two veteran players can help them win pennants and perhaps advance to the World Series.
The Twins sent Dozier, a power-hitting, Gold Glove second baseman, to the Dodgers for second baseman Logan Forsythe and prospects Devin Smeltzer and Luke Raley. Lynn joins the Yankees in exchange for infielder Tyler Austin and minor league pitcher Luis Rijo.
The Dozier deal will not be a popular one in Minnesota where Dozier, a Fulton native, had become the face of the franchise. An eighth-round draft pick out of USM in 2009, Dozier has hit 167 home runs of seven big league seasons. That’s terrific power for a middle infielder, plus he was an All-Star in 2015, hit a career-high 42 home runs in 2016 and won the American League Gold Glove award in 2017. His offensive numbers are down this season but he still has slugged 16 home runs and 21 doubles.
The Dodgers had showed interest in Dozier, who now lives in Hattiesburg, as early as the 2017 off-season and proposed a deal to the Twins last winter. In the end, the Twins balked. Clearly, the Dodgers never gave up.
In Los Angeles, Dozier is expected to share second base duties with veteran Chase Utley, one of his childhood heroes. Utley, 39, is a 16-year veteran in the twilight of his career. Dozier is expected to be in the starting lineup when the Dodgers play the Milwaukee Brewers tonight at Dodger Stadium.
The Brewers defeated the Dodgers 1-0 Tuesday night, but Dozier’s hastily arranged flight from Minnesota did not arrive in LA in time for him to play. He was available for a press conference afterward.
“You’re going to get 100 percent from me, whether it’s off the bench, playing every day, whatever the case may be,” Dozier said. “…Whatever I can do to help this ball club win and get to the postseason and have a chance to win the World Series, I’m all for it.”
Dozier figures to be a huge upgrade in “pop” at second base for LA. Forsythe was hitting .206 with two home runs. Utley is hitting .240 with one homer.
Dozier reportedly used the word “excited” three times in the first minute of his press conference.
“When you say Dodgers in Mississippi, it’s a pretty big deal,” he told newsmen. “I’ve had to pinch myself a little.”
The Dodgers enter tonight’s game a half game behind the Arizona Diamondbacks in the National League West.
The Yankees trail the Boston Red Sox by five games in the American League East, and Lynn has pitched well against the Red Sox in the past. In fact, he gave up two runs in a six-inning stint against the Sox, pitching at Fenway last Friday night. The Twins lost 4-3 in extra innings.
The Yankees appear to have signed Lynn for more depth to an already deep pitching staff. He will be used in the bullpen and as a spot starter at first, but could move into the rotation.
Lynn was a nifty 72-47 in five-plus seasons as a St. Louis Cardinal before joining the Twins this season. The tall, heavyset right-hander struggled early in Minnesota and takes a 7-8 record and 5.10 earned run average to New York. What surely piqued the Yankees’ interest, besides his past with the Cardinals, is how he has pitched lately. He has a 6-4 record and a 3.74 ERA in his last 12 starts, including a 1-0 record in two quality starts against the Red Sox.