Baseball is a game of patience and faith. You cannot turn around a team’s fortunes with a single draft pick. Slumps are inevitable for all but the best hitters. Data in a given game, or week’s worth of games, is almost never enough to be of any value. The fruits of the labors of coaches, players, and front offices can take years to bloom, and pivoting can ruin those efforts as often as it can power better results.
But at some point, patience becomes stubbornness, a fear of action, an impediment on the road to success. We are there regarding Hunter Dozier’s tenure with the Kansas City Royals, who have showed him patience and faith above and beyond. It’s time for the Royals to part ways with Dozier.
Just as Spring Training was about to kick off, the Royals stated that Dozier was going to play a lot of third base. With other statements they had made, you could read pretty clearly between the lines: the Royals wanted to see if Dozier could play his way into some trade value so they could get out from under some of his $17 million in guaranteed money, and with no one in the organization kicking down the door for playing time, it was a low-risk play.
There was some risk, of course. That risk was that Dozier would be awful, just like he was in 2021 and 2022. Lo and behold, he has been awful. He has been awful at the field...
...and he has been awful at the plate.
The Royals were well within their rights to release Dozier over the offseason. Dozier was quite literally the worst position player in baseball over the previous two seasons, and in his age-31 campaign, it’s not exactly probable that he would reverse course. Yes, Dozier is owed a lot of money, but in the grand scheme of things $17 million over three years isn’t remotely near the shortlist of dead money eaten by a club. Just recently, the Arizona Diamondbacks released Madison Bumgarner, who they owe $34 milllion—double what Dozier is owed.
As it turns out, the Royals were correct to be wary of their third base depth, and indeed overall talent depth, which to be blunt just stinks right now. Nate Eaton and Michael Massey have both been thoroughly overmatched in the big leagues, and Maikel Garcia has struggled following a hot start in Triple-A Omaha. Kyle Isbel, Nick Loftin, and Tyler Gentry have also been less than stellar at the plate, to say the least. That’s not to say that there aren’t options; Logan Porter is a right-handed bat who’s killing it in Omaha, and there are plenty of veterans a la Matt Duffy who would be simple and inexpensive to acquire.
Regardless, the win condition for Dozier being on the roster revolved entirely around his ability to show other teams potential value. This is not happening, and the Royals understand this—or at least Matt Quatraro does—because Dozier has ceased to be an everyday regular. Dozier hasn’t played in about a quarter of the Royals’ total games and is often pinch hit for. That’s because, as it turns out, Dozier is again one of the worst players in baseball, a power hitter who is striking out a third of the time and whose average exit velocity has plummeted to 83.2 MPH when he does manage to make contact.
All this would perhaps be able to be swept a little under the rug, except the Royals are extraordinarily and conspicuously terrible and in the midst of their franchise’s worst start to a season ever. Keeping Dozier around signals to fans—and, importantly, voters who hold the power to provide or deny the team with a billion dollars of taxpayer money for a new ballpark—that the organization is not willing to take obvious and clear steps to improve the team.
We all know how this is going to end: the Royals are going to designate Dozier for assignment at some point. Whether that’s this week, this month, or next year is irrelevant; Kansas City is on the hook for his salary regardless, Dozier has played his way out of any trade value, and he isn’t helping the team in the short term or long term. One of the big knocks against the previous baseball operations administration was refusing to see a sunk cost until it’s too late. This is one of the first in-season opportunities for the new administration to swallow their pride and make the correct baseball move sooner rather than later.