What do you do with a Hunter Dozier?

Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Of the potential puzzle pieces that the Royals have for building a winning team in the near future, the most confounding to me is Hunter Dozier. There are several options of how to handle him in the near and longer term, and I will get to those, but first we should discuss what Dozier is.

I think Dayton Moore thought he was signing an average everyday player going into 2021 when Hunter signed a 4-year $25 million dollar deal. That is only $6.3 million per year, though the way it is distributed is not particularly advantageous at the moment. In 2019 Dozier had a breakout year and ended with 2.7 fWAR mostly from his 123 wRC+. Then in the shortened 2020 he was closer to a league average hitter but was still on pace for somewhere near 2 wins, which for many is the definition of an average everyday player. Unfortunately, 2021 was kind of a disaster, and threw a kink in the plan of having a nice consistent player on a cheap contract for a couple years.

This year has started out fairly well for Dozier, but he seems to be slumping a bit as of late. In his best year, 2019, a lot of his production came from a monster April and good May followed by ups and downs the rest of the year posting wRC+ totals of 83, 101, 127, and 95 over the last four months of the season. Never horrible, but some rough patches for sure. So far this season he was average in April, great in May, and horrifically bad to this point in June posting a -30 wRC+ (yes that is negative), which is Tony Pena Jr. levels of bad. Will he start hitting better than that again? Almost certainly, but he does seem to be a bit streakier than average at the plate.

The main problem with this is that Dozier needs to hit since defensively he is not very good. He came up at 3B, but the Royals have completely given up on him there based on the one inning so far this year he has manned the hot corner. Instead, Hunter has been playing mostly at 1B and RF with a tiny bit of LF sprinkled in (only 11 innings). Right field has not shown to be a great position for him any more than third was, with advanced metrics showing him as a negative in right consistently over the past three seasons. To be clear, he is much better than Jorge Soler was out there, but as an everyday outfielder Dozier is a net negative defensively. First base he seems to handle a little better than average, but not much, and it is first base so slightly above average adds very little in the way of value.

That is what leads to the complication of what to do with Dozier, he has no definitive home, and he can't really be a "utility" guy since they tend to be defensively solid. The best home for him defensively seems to be first, but first is not available (or shouldn't be anyway) with Pasquantino and Pratto knocking on (down) the door. It seems very unlikely that Dozier can get consistent time at first over the next two and a half years.

Right field is a possibility, but for the rest of this year Kyle Isbel and Edward Olivares should be manning the corners most days to see if either/both of them can establish themselves as answers that are better than Dozier since he is probably not quite good enough to be in either spot every day. Once Benintendi is traded, I would like to see those two playing almost everyday unless one of them proves they can't handle it, but they should get long looks.

DH is also not really an option with Salvy and Melendez sharing time at catcher and eating up that spot on their off days. Plus, his bat is not nearly good enough to be an everyday DH.

So, what do you do with Dozier given this set of circumstances? There are a few options.

1. Trade him - I think this is viable, but I do not think most teams would be interested in Dozier as more than a fourth outfielder and bat off the bench. That means the returns would be minimal to nothing. That contract he signed is relatively cheap, but cost control is more attractive in younger players, which Dozier is not. He will turn 31 later this year. The contract will pay him $7.5 million in 2023 and $9.25 million in 2024 with a $10 million team option/$1 million buyout in 2025. If a team thinks they can get 2 WAR per year that is a steal, but based on his inconsistency I would not value him that way as an opposing GM. He is cheap, but not for a bench bat. His recent history would make me consider him a 1-win player +/- a win, which makes it a gamble to acquire him.

2. Make him an everyday outfielder - You signed the deal and will get what you get out of him. That seems to be a popular choice for the Royals since DMGM showed up, though whether JJ Piccolo will continue with that philosophy is still at least partially in question (please get Santana out of there JJ). That would make it so that Isbel and Olivares are competing for the other spot with Dozier slotted into the lineup consistently assuming Benintendi is traded in the next month to make both corners available.

3. Make him the fourth outfielder - with Olivares' return immanent you could make him a bench player and get him two starts a week (one in each corner OF spot) once Benintendi is traded. That keeps the option of Dozier being in an outfield spot next year if Isbel and/or Olivares struggle through the season. This is probably the safest route, and the one I would probably take personally. I just don't think he has enough value to trade or enough consistency for the first two options.

This FanPost was written by a member of the Royals Review community. It does not necessarily reflect the views of the editors and writers of this site.