The KC Royals may run out of room for a popular, versatile young player.
If Kansas City puts 29-year old Hunter Dozier on the July market, it won’t be because they don’t like him. Instead, he could get caught in the impending Royal talent crunch.
Dozier ended the 2019 season as the club’s third base replacement for Mike Moustakas—100 games at the hot corner and a 26-homer, 84 RBI, .279/.348/.522 campaign made him the presumptive regular for 2020.
The Royals, though, apparently more than a little concerned about Dozier’s glove, brought in Maikel Franco to play third, forcing Dozier to the outfield. And before the season ended, Dozier seemed firmly established at first base after Ryan O’Hearn and Ryan McBroom couldn’t beat each other out for the job.
Now, the offseason signing of first baseman Carlos Santana bounces Dozier back to third, but General Manager Dayton Moore’s quest for another lefthanded bat could, depending on who he might sign or trade for, force Dozier back to the outfield.
But the real threat to Dozier already lurks close by. Not a negative word has been publicly spoken about Bobby Witt Jr., the top prospect the Royals are carefully nurturing to avoid prematurely rushing him to the majors. But Witt’s rapid progress may force their hand—he could see Kauffman Stadium this season.
That could derail Dozier’s KC career. Witt’s natural position, shortstop, just happens to be occupied by Adalberto Mondesi, and the Royals probably don’t have the appetite to move him elsewhere. The obvious solution is to move a big league-ready Witt to third, which will again displace Dozier.
At that point, Dozier could be trapped by the numbers. The Royals have far more outfielders than they have spots for, and they’re high on all of them. Simply put, the club may run out of room for Dozier, if not in 2021 then in 2022. Much depends on Witt.
So it is Dozier may end up on the July trade block. He’s a good candidate if his bat improves over last season (.228 with six homers and 12 RBIs, although he missed the first two weeks after a positive COVID-19 test). He’s versatile and, because he isn’t eligible for free agency until after the 2023 season, a July trade gives an interested team over two seasons of control.