Minor league signings aren’t often that compelling, but the Padres did make an intriguing pickup on a non-guaranteed deal this past weekend. The club added to a crowded picture at second base by inking former star Brian Dozier to a low-risk pact. It was somewhat of a surprise outcome in free agency for Dozier, as even though he’s not the huge-hitting, base-stealing standout he was in his Twins heyday, he was still fairly productive in 2019.
As a member of last year’s World Series-winning Nationals, Dozier batted .238/.340/.430 with 20 home runs in 482 plate appearances. Those numbers essentially made the 32-year-old Dozier a league-average hitter (99 wRC+) and overall producer (1.7 fWAR). So, from the Padres’ perspective, there’s little to no harm in giving Dozier a shot on a deal that’ll only amount to $2.2MM if he makes their roster.
Second base was something of a sore spot in 2019 for San Diego, which received almost nothing from the now-retired Ian Kinsler and saw once-touted prospect Luis Urias struggle. Consequently, the Padres have reshuffled at the position since last season ended.
Well before the Dozier signing, the Padres traded Urias to the Brewers in a swap that sent outfielder Trent Grisham and righty Zach Davies to San Diego. A few days after that, the Padres replaced Urias in a different trade, acquiring Jurickson Profar from the Athletics for young catcher Austin Allen. Profar’s due to earn $5.7MM this season in his last year of arbitration control, but that’s not a guaranteed sum until the season begins. It’s unlikely to happen, but the Padres will be able to move on from Profar this spring if he flounders in their second base competition. Notably, the switch-hitting Profar, 27, hasn’t performed all that well since he debuted with the Rangers as an elite prospect in 2012. His difficulties continued last season in his lone year in Oakland, as he hit .218/.301/.410 with 20 homers and 1.3 fWAR in 518 PA.
Dozier was more productive than Profar in 2019, and so was fellow Padre Greg Garcia. He batted .248/.364/.354 en route to 1.4 fWAR over 372 trips to the plate. However, the lefty-hitting 30-year-old wasn’t an option against same-handed pitchers. Conversely, Profar owned lefties while faring poorly versus righties. As Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union Tribune notes, the plan had been for Profar and Garcia to platoon at second. That could still end up happening, but the addition of the right-handed Dozier – who has historically smacked lefties around – could throw a wrench into a Profar-Garcia tandem. Garcia doesn’t have a minor league option remaining, though, meaning he could wind up with another organization if he doesn’t make the Padres’ season-opening roster.
Dozier, Profar and Garcia are the main combatants in San Diego’s second base competition, though the team does have a few other possibilities in the mix. The versatile Ty France totaled 17 major league appearances at the keystone last season. His production wasn’t great in the bigs, whereas he utterly pulverized Triple-A pitching, hitting a video game-like .399/.477/.770 with 27 home runs (196 wRC+) in 348 plate appearances. He’s on the Padres’ 40-man roster, as is Breyvic Valera, whom they claimed on waivers a couple weeks ago. Valera has put up nice numbers in the minors, but the 28-year-old switch hitter has fallen flat in multiple MLB stops. Unlike France, Valera’s out of options, so he could head back to the waiver wire if he doesn’t hold his own in camp.
That group aside, the Padres also have other second base-capable players around (Gordon Beckham, Esteban Quiroz, Ivan Castillo and Hudson Potts, to name a few), but they’re all in camp as non-roster invitees. Odds are that they’re not realistically going to push for the second base job. On the other hand, even though Dozier’s a fellow NRI, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the accomplished veteran open the year in San Diego. In the meantime, the club’s in for an interesting keystone competition over the next month.