The KC Royals’ general manager will be judged in part on how two infield moves turn out.
Dayton Moore’s apparent solution to the first base problem that’s puzzled the Royals since Eric Hosmer left may be the best move of his winter spent trying to improve the club. The acquisition of Carlos Santana has more to do with his excellence at the position than any discomfort KC had with Hunter Dozier after he took over at first last year.
Bringing aboard Santana, whose power (240 career homers, including more than 20 in seven of his 11 seasons) and .366 OBP overshadow a .248 career average, is a move that simply must work. Many were called, but none permanently chosen, to replace Hosmer. Santana should succeed and hold down first for at least the duration of his two-season, $17.5 million deal; but if his effort turns out like those of Lucas Duda, Ryan O’Hearn and Ryan McBroom, many will, rightly or wrongly, blame Moore for the continuing inability to fill Hosmer’s sizeable shoes.
Signing Santana worked yet another displacement of Dozier, who the KC Royals called upon late last season to cover first when O’Hearn and McBroom both couldn’t hold the job. The switch followed Dozier’s move to the outfield, a position change occasioned by the preseason acquisition of Maikel Franco. Through it all, Dozier fared reasonably well with six home runs and a .344 OBP in a season shortened overall by the pandemic, and more so by his own encounter with COVID-19.
Now back at third base, Dozier merits playing every day (at least until Bobby Witt Jr. is ready for the majors). His occasional defensive shortcomings notwithstanding, he spent most of 2019 at third and tied for the major league lead in triples and hit 26 homers to go with a .279/.348/.522 slash. Dozier presents Moore with a classic general manager’s dilemma—find a spot he can settle into, or consider trading him to fulfill other needs.
General Manager Dayton Moore has made several moves to improve the KC Royals this winter. He’ll be judged on how they turn out.