The Nationals have expressed interest in free-agent second baseman Brian Dozier, Jesse Dougherty of the Washington Post reports. They’ve also shown recent interest in free-agent left-hander Wade Miley, Dougherty adds, backing up an earlier report from Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic.
Dozier joins the previously reported DJ LeMahieu and Josh Harrison as free agents who have been on the radar of the second base-needy Nationals this winter. However, Dougherty casts doubt on the possibility of Washington reeling in LeMahieu, who figures to receive the richest contract among the three. Regardless, with only Howie Kendrick – who’s coming off a ruptured Achilles – and the light-hitting Wilmer Difo as experienced options at the keystone, the Nationals may well attempt to upgrade there before the 2019 campaign begins.
At the outset of the offseason, MLBTR predicted Dozier would head to D.C. on a one-year, $10MM accord. Had he reached free agency a year ago, though, it’s likely Dozier would have landed a much more lucrative payday. Dozier was then coming off a five-year stretch with the Twins in which he racked up 21.7 fWAR (17th among position players) and 145 home runs (13th). Along the way, he authored a pair of the most powerful years in the history of second basemen – the 2016-17 campaigns, during which he combined for 76 homers (including 42, an American League record for his position, in ’16).
Dozier’s stock was certainly high 12 months ago, but it may now be at a nadir relative to the rest of his career. As a member of the Twins and Dodgers last season, Dozier did mash another 21 HRs and steal 12 of 15 bases in 2018, giving him five consecutive campaigns with 20-plus long balls and six straight with double-digit stolen bags. However, across 632 plate appearances, the 31-year-old only managed a .215/.305/.391 line – good for a 90 wRC+, the worst full-season mark of his career – and his lowest ISO (.175) since 2014. Statcast suggests Dozier didn’t deserve better than his offensive production, as his paltry expected weighted on-base average (.288) actually fell short of his real wOBA (.304). Dozier also earned negative marks in the field, with minus-8 Defensive Runs Saved and a minus-6.4 Ultimate Zone Rating. In all, the 2018 version of Dozier was worth less than a win above replacement at FanGraphs.
While Dozier’s on the market at a less-than-ideal time, the opposite may be true of Miley. After settling for a minor league pact with the Brewers last year, the former innings eater rebuilt his stock to a degree by notching a 2.57 ERA/3.59 FIP and a 52.8 percent groundball rate over 80 2/3 frames with the World Series contenders. The 32-year-old Miley’s success came in spite of subpar strikeout and walk rates (5.58 K/9, 3.01 BB/9) and an unsustainable home run-to-fly ball percentage (5.2), which could dampen enthusiasm about his future. Nevertheless, MLBTR estimates he’ll sign for two years and $12MM – a nice guarantee considering where his stock was a year ago.
Whether Miley will get his next contract from the Nationals is questionable at best, of course. They had interest in Miley between trading Tanner Roark to Cincinnati on Dec. 13 and signing Anibal Sanchez on Dec. 20, per Dougherty. While Dougherty doesn’t rule out a Miley signing, the Nats’ rotation may be set with Sanchez slotting in behind the all-world trio of Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and Patrick Corbin and likely in front of either Joe Ross or Erick Fedde.