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Trade talks cooled, 2B Brian Dozier happy to stay with Twins

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MINNEAPOLIS (AP) When second baseman Brian Dozier left Minnesota for the offseason, heading home to Mississippi after hitting 42 home runs, it was uncertain whether he'd be back.

With the burners on baseball's hot stove turned down for now, Dozier remains in place where he preferred to be - with the Twins. He'll head to spring training in two weeks or so, content to still be with the organization that drafted him eight years ago even though Minnesota lost a club-record 103 games in 2016.

''Obviously, a lot of things went on this offseason that, quite frankly, I don't necessarily like,'' Dozier said, ''but at the same time it is what it is. Now that we're at the point where everybody's focused in on spring training and trying to get this team where it needs to be, I'm here and I'm happy to be a part of it.''

Dozier arrived at Target Field on Thursday night for the team's annual Diamond Awards ceremony, a fundraiser for the University of Minnesota's research and care of neurological diseases. The 29-year-old slugger was the big winner at the event, accepting trophies for most valuable player, most improved player and team leadership after posting an .886 OPS and 99 RBIs last season.

In his friendly southern drawl, while flashing his wide smile, Dozier courteously declined to delve too deeply into his emotions throughout a winter in which rumor and speculation about his whereabouts for 2017 were inescapable.

''I ain't talking about trades,'' he said, proceeding to describe his offseason with a wry simplicity: ''We took a couple trips. I killed some ducks. Got a big old buck.''

Dozier relented a bit, acknowledging to a small group of reporters that his reticence to discuss the subject stems from a desire to steer the spotlight away from him and his status.

''I don't want it to always be like a pingpong ball or something anytime an opening comes up and all that,'' he said. ''I'm trying to help this team win games, and that's what I'm here for.''

Under contract for $6 million this year and $9 million next season, Dozier is a market bargain at his age with two years before he's eligible for free agency. The Twins would love to lock him up for longer than that in a perfect world, but the reality is that he's their best trade chip when it comes to improving a pitching staff that has been one of the worst in the major leagues over the last several seasons.

The Twins were fairly deep in talks with the Los Angeles Dodgers, who ultimately sent pitching prospect Jose De Leon to Tampa Bay in exchange for second baseman Logan Forsythe this week. Once that happened, the chance of Dozier getting dealt before opening day greatly diminished. Of course, there's always the trade deadline this summer, the next winter meetings and so on.

''I don't really want to focus on all the trade stuff, especially now getting closer to spring training. I get it's a big topic and all that kind of stuff, but that's behind me,'' said Dozier, who spoke several times about his status over the last few months with the new Twins brass, chief baseball officer Derek Falvey and general manager Thad Levine.

''My focus right now is I don't want it to be anything about what's been happening this offseason,'' added Dozier, an All-Star in 2015.

Coming off a career year despite the team's struggles , Dozier is dealing with one of those good problems to have, with skills that are in demand.

''Brian is a meaningful player,'' Falvey told reporters last month, ''and we are going to look for a lot if we are going to move a meaningful player.''