The KC Royals have a player they have little choice but to play next season.
Hunter Dozier is a Kansas City problem without an easy solution, a Royal who hasn’t earned a present position but must be played.
Such is the unfortunate consequence of the $25 million contract the club gave him in February. The deal has the Royals in a corner—Dozier hit a respectable 16 home runs this season, but his .216/.285/.394 line and that four-year deal make justifying playing him every day difficult and moving him to another club hard.
Now, new General Manager J.J. Picollo must, at least in the short term, live with the problem his predecessor created and find Dozier a place to play.
Third base, where Dozier has passed considerable time, is out. Bobby Witt Jr. or Adalberto Mondesi will play there. Shortstop and second aren’t options because Nicky Lopez and Whit Merrifield shouldn’t be moving anywhere after their excellent 2021 campaigns.
Dozier isn’t versatile enough to be a super-utility infielder, or to supplant Mondesi should the KC Royals install him in that role if he doesn’t play third. And although Dozier is an adequate first baseman, the club signaled first wasn’t for him when they signed Carlos Santana, and Nick Pratto is on the verge of breaking down the door to that position.
That leaves right field (Andrew Benintendi’s claim to left is rock solid and Dozier simply isn’t a center fielder), which will be available only of KC keeps Merrifield at second. DH is a possibility, but Dozier’s .216 average doesn’t measure up.
And that’s why trying to fit Dozier in is, at least for now, one of the club’s major headaches.