To pull back the curtain a bit, every year at the end of the season, Max creates a spreadsheet of everyone who played for the Royals that year and has us all sign up for whoever we want to write reviews for. I selected a couple of players I’m very excited about, but apparently, I also picked Hunter Dozier. There are no minimum or maximum limits on the number of players we select, so at some point, I must have thought I could find an interesting angle on Hunter Dozier. Whatever angle I thought I had has been lost forever.
All that’s left to say is Hunter Dozier had a no-good, very bad season.
For the second straight season, Hunter Dozier was worth -1.0 fWAR - a number that would have led all qualified hitters if he had managed a few more at-bats and fifteenth worst overall. It did lead all qualified hitters last season. Baseball Reference didn’t rate him much better, calling him the seventh-worst batsman with a -1.2 bWAR. WAR may not tell the whole story but when a player has a negative WAR, it often tells enough.
Last season, Dozier had an excuse with his early injuries that allegedly lingered throughout the season. Dozier was actually a productive hitter for the first half of the season with a 117 wRC+ but that plummeted to an abysmal 46 in the second half. Dozier has never been a particularly good fielder and nothing about that changed in 2022. He’s also never been particularly fast, but he used to find ways to take extra bases anyway. This season ended up being by far his worst as a baserunner as well.
Dozier is now firmly on the wrong side of 30. He has never had a defensive position, his baserunning abilities have evaporated, and what once seemed like a promising start in 2019 now appears to be an outlier. If you go to Baseball Savant looking for some positives, they have none on offer.
Hunter Dozier would be a free agent right now had the Royals not locked him up with a four-year deal during the 2020/2021 off-season that guaranteed they have him for two more seasons with a club option for one more. Unfortunately, the money is a sunk cost. Fortunately, the money isn’t as completely immovable as if the Royals had done something like the Albert Pujols/Angels deal.
No, Hunter Dozier will not return excess value, but his contract can be moved. There are a few options available:
- They could just acknowledge the cost is sunk and cut him.
- They can trade him and a prospect to another team for salary relief.
- They can agree to eat most of his contract and trade him to a team desperate for a right-handed bat for a lottery ticket.
- They can swap him for some other team’s bad contract and hope a change of scenery helps both players.
The Royals are not currently in a position where extra salary flexibility would help them, so that second option would be somewhat foolish. The third option would make a bit more sense, but feels like a bit of a waste. The fourth option seems like the best chance to me; it worked out really well when the Royals dealt Jonathan Sanchez for Jeremy Guthrie back in 2012.
The Royals could also choose to just keep him. He did end the season with a 109 wRC+ against left-handed pitching. As a bench option or the weak side of a platoon, he might be able to provide some positive value. At this point, the Royals’ roster feels a bit crowded even without him on it, though, so I’m not sure that makes sense for them. After all, he still doesn’t offer any value on the bases or with a glove. And a 109 wRC+ isn’t exactly something you write home about.
The Royals finally let go of Dayton Moore despite his pair of good seasons because his bad seasons had outweighed the good he offered. Hunter Dozier has put up one good hitting season and three seasons where he was among the absolute least valuable players in baseball. If they could see it was time to move on from Moore, they should be able to see it’s time for them to move on from Dozier, as well.
Final grade: F
What grade would you give Hunter Dozier for his 2022 season?
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