The KC Royals have a player who must prove he’s worth his big contract.
That Kansas City signed Hunter Dozier to a new multi-million dollar deal last December wasn’t surprising. He was arbitration-eligible and, despite a disappointing 2020 season, remained firmly in the club’s plans. Spending the modest $2.27 million it took to avoid the risk of arbitration was reasonable.
What happened just two months later, though, was surprising, if not shocking. Suddenly gone was Dozier’s brand new contract, replaced by a stunning four-year $25 million package that even the best of his then-four years in the majors—26 homers, 84 RBIs and a .279/.348/.522 slash line in 2019—didn’t seem to justify.
Perhaps predictably, Dozier struggled in the first year of the mega-deal. Only slashing .272/.346/.576 over his final 30 game enabled him to finish 2021 at a dismal .216/.285/.394.
Now incumbent upon Dozier is to live up to the contract that virtually assures him of playing somewhere in Kansas City’s crowded lineup and makes it difficult to trade him if he continues to disappoint.
Shuffling the infield next season to accommodate Bobby Witt Jr.’s arrival will end Dozier’s days at third base. Maybe Manager Mike Matheny will try him in right field again, where he played 60 times last season, and DH him occasionally.
In any event, one thing is certain for Dozier. He must come through in 2022, or the Royals might be forced to eat his contract or search hard for a trade partner willing to assume at least a small part of his big contract.