The Royals have surprisingly been one of the most active teams so far this MLB offseason. They reunited with former KC World Series Champion Greg Holland, and signed big name 1st baseman, Carlos Santana, with a flurry of more tiny moves.
Everyone in Kansas City is most likely ecstatic about the team making moves with the near future in mind. Everyone, but 1B, 3B, and OF Hunter Dozier. Somehow the versatile right hander is currently the odd man out of the Royals starting lineup.
But could the part time 3B have a full time job in LA? Does LA have the right stuff to make a deal? Should they?
- Dozier’s Career
- Hunter Dozier Odd Man Out
- Trade Proposal
- Royal’s Needs
- Dodger’s Needs
Dozier is only heading into his 4th full season as a 29 year old this upcoming season. He turns 30 next August. But the late bloomer was the 8th overall pick all the way back in the 2013 draft. He managed to debut in 2016 for 8 games before injuries shut him down in 2017 and made him bounce between the majors and minors.
He’d settle in to his MLB role in 2018 for 102 games. He showed signs of great pop, speed, and being strikeout prone. Overall he’d slash .229/.278/.395 in his rookie campaign. But 2019 showed why the Royals took Dozier with the 8th pick of the draft.
Dozier hit a career high 26 homers, 10 triples, 29 doubles, 75 runs, 84 RBI, 2 SB, and slashed a gaudy .279/.348/.522. The 10 triples lead the AL and the .870 OPS settled him in at 21st in the AL. HIs OPS+ checked in at 125 and he produced 3.2 WAR in 139 games. Overall just great stuff.
2020 saw some regression, but it wasn’t surprising considering the small sample size plus his recovery from injury. He slashed .228/.344/.392. Almost identical to his 2018 rookie line, but he showed huge improvement in his walk to strikeout ratio. Statcast had him in the 89th percentile in BB%.
He hit 6 homers in 186 at bats. He also had 4 doubles, 2 triples, 4/4 stolen bases, 29 runs, 12 RBI, and 27 BB’s against 48 strikeouts. Overall, he still was 1% better than average with an OPS+ of 101.
He’s still fast in the 77th percentile of speed. It wasn’t a great year defensively, but he’s traditionally great. His career fielding percentage at 3B is .963. He didn’t see many opportunities there in 2020, but in 2019 it was his primary position and his fielding % was .965. That’s only 1 point lower than Matt Chapman’s career %.
Overall, wee see Dozier trending up the next few years. To us, the ceiling on Dozier is a .290/.400/.500 hitter. At the very least, he’s good for a .230/.350/.400 line with power, speed, and defense. He fits the walk and slug mold of the Dodgers almost perfectly.
Hunter Dozier and KC
Hunter Dozier had a very mediocre 2020 to follow his 2019 breakout. Now the 29 year old looks ahead to 2021 with a hopeful KC squad that has him as the backup for every position he plays.
The Royals committed to years to Carlos Santana at 1st base and likely staying with Jorge Soler at DH. So that knocks out both of those starting options.
Prospect Kelvin Gutierrez is currently listed as the Royals starting 3rd baseman and has all the potential of Dozier and more, but for less money. Hunter is staring down several years of arbitration. Granted, if Hunter does start anywhere, it’ll be 3rd.
Finally, he is the 5th man in the Royals outfield after the cheap signing of Michael A Taylor. Now Edward Olivares takes the place of the 4th option with Franchy Cordero in left, Taylor in Center and hit machine Merrifield in right. Technically leaving Dozier as the 3rd string option in RF.
Don’t get us wrong, depth is a luxury for a team like the Royals. But they have paid a lot of money this offseason between Minor, Santana, Holland. They’ll account for almost 25% of the teams payroll next year alone. Even Dozier at almost $3 million accounts for a good portion of payroll cap.
It seems that the Royals see opportunity in the misfortune of other clubs this year. They’re moving quick and signing plus free agents on team friendly contracts. And If they move some more old salary, they could take advantage of this one of a kind market even more. So…
The Trade Proposal
- Royals Send
- LHP, Danny Duffy
- 1B,3B,OF, Hunter Dozier
- Dodgers Send
- RHP Gerardo Carrillo (16th)
- RHP Mitch White (9th)
- 1B, 3B, OF Matt Beaty
The Royals will be playing the balancing act as they try to build a roster with about half the money other teams have. As the offseason started, they were concerned with these few areas.
- Starting Pitching
- Outfield Help
- Bullpen Help
- Third Base (Corner Infield) Middle of the Lineup Bat
Mitch White adds about the same caliber of starting depth that Duffy can bring, but at a much more team friendly price. Duffy is owed $15 million in his final year of his contract. If anything, moving that contract this offseason frees the Royals up to sign a few free agents in his place.
Matt Beaty also replaces Dozier with an almost identical amount of defensive versatility and value as a lefty hitter. Finally Carrillo has shot up the Dodgers prospect rankings as a flame throwing reliever. He has potential to help the Royals like Graterol helped the Dodger’s pen. And Santana was the middle of the lineup bat they were looking for.
The Champions only really have two needs left, and one is almost optional at this point.
- A right handed hitting starter
- Another leverage reliever
Dozier is obviously the right handed hitter, but Duffy could find a new role as a long reliever with the Dodgers. For starters, he had awful split stats in 2020 between lefties and righties. He dominated same handed batters (left handed) for a 2.16 ERA and got walloped by the right handed hitters for a 5.44 ERA. If he could come in specifically for lefties next year, he could be elite.
Another sign that Duffy would be excellent as a reliever is his ERA by innings. Duffy was perfect in the 1st inning last year. He gave up one unearned run all 2020 long in the first inning. It shot up to a 5.73 ERA in the 2nd and a 0.82 in the 3rd before skyrocketing to a 10.13 ERA in the 4th and a 9.72 in the 5th. He clearly gets worse as teams see him more. The 3rd time through the order must absolutely kill him.
Finally we also noticed that the same pattern of decline rang true when it came to the full season. Last year, Duffy went from a 5.79 ERA with a 0.75 WHIP in July, to a 3.51 ERA and 1.17 WHIP in August, to a 6.33 ERA and 1.78 WHIP in September. He struck less batters out, and walked more as the year went on.
So we think a rested, bullpen version of Duffy could be an elite reliever. With his mix of 5 pitches, batters won’t know what’s coming in short appearances. (Think Maeda in the pen). So when we mix that with his awful schedule last year, Duffy looks like he’s due for a positive regression towards his mean next year.
Duffy isn’t worth $15 million, but Dozier will definitely make up the lost value if he’s starting. And if David Price chooses not to play this upcoming year, the Dodgers may want another veteran lefty in his stead.
The Royals get to dump their biggest salary commitment, move a backup player, and replace them with cheaper, maybe just as valuable assets. If not, they add flexibility to their payroll and can add more Free Agents.
As for the Dodgers, they add a versatile RHB for several years at the price of a couple prospects, losing a lefty version of what they’re getting pack, and taking on a slightly overpaid pitcher. The champions still get better for next year and maybe add an important cog in Dozier for the next half decade.
Sadly, we think it’s unlikely this trade ever happens. Matheny loves Dozier and sees Duffy as the workhorse of his rotation. The Dodgers would have to pay too high of a price to move them to LA.