TODAY: The Royals have officially announced Dozier’s extension. The Athletic’s Alec Lewis (Twitter links) has the financial breakdown — Dozier will get a $1MM signing bonus, $2.25MM this season, $4.5MM in 2022, $7.25MM in 2023, $9MM in 2024, and there is a $1MM buyout on the $10MM club option for 2025. There are multiple escalators involved, including $1MM bonuses for various awards.
FEB. 28, 9:51AM: Dozier and the Royals are in agreement on a four-year, $25MM guarantee with a $10MM option for 2025, per Jeff Passan of ESPN (Twitter link). If Dozier reaches all available escalators and bonuses, it could max out at $49MM, Passan reports.
9:35AM: While the deal isn’t yet complete, there’s “optimism” it’ll get over the finish line, per Alec Lewis and Andy McCullough of the Athletic (via Twitter). If finalized, the guarantee is expected to land in the $25MM range, report Lewis and McCullough. The 2025 option would be worth $10MM, reports Jon Heyman of MLB Network (Twitter link).
8:59AM: The Royals are finalizing a four-year contract extension with Hunter Dozier, reports Robert Murray of FanSided (Twitter link). The proposed deal would also contain a club option for 2025, per Murray. Dozier is a client of The L. Warner Companies, Inc.
As a player with three-plus years of MLB service, the 29-year-old wasn’t set to reach free agency until after the 2023 season. Rather than proceed year-by-year through arbitration, the parties are locking in some cost certainty over the next three seasons while lengthening their relationship by at least one year. The deal will buy out Dozier’s first year of would-be free agency, while the club option adds a second additional season of team control.
Despite being selected eighth overall out of Stephen F. Austin University in 2013, Dozier had something of a slow ascent through the minors. He made his MLB debut as a September call-up in 2016, but it wasn’t until the middle of the 2018 season that he had established himself as a big league regular.
Dozier struggled down the stretch as a rookie but seemed to break out as a middle-of-the-order bat in his sophomore season. The right-handed hitter popped 26 home runs and hit .279/.348/.522 across 586 plate appearances in 2019. Dozier’s batted ball metrics reinforced that power output. His 91.1 MPH average exit velocity placed him in the 83rd percentile league-wide; Dozier’s hard contact and barrel rates were similarly impressive. A higher than average 25.3% strikeout rate and .339 BABIP hinted at some potential regression in future seasons, but Dozier’s power and decent plate discipline positioned him as an above-average offensive performer nonetheless.
The shortened 2020 season, however, proved a difficult one for Dozier. That was the case for plenty of players, but Dozier was one of the players most directly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. He tested positive for the coronavirus last July and was forced to start the season on the injured list. Upon his return, he lacked the same power he’d shown the season before. Whether because of his bout with COVID-19 or merely due to the season’s small sample size (he tallied just 186 plate appearances), the Royals clearly feel Dozier’s .228/.344/.392 line was anomalous.
Regaining his footing at the plate is critical for Dozier, who’s rather limited defensively. He broke in as a third baseman, but defensive metrics panned his work at the hot corner from 2018-19. After signing Maikel Franco last offseason, Kansas City mostly limited Dozier to first base and the corner outfield in 2020. Franco is back in free agency, possibly bumping Dozier back to third this year (and perhaps beyond). At his age, it’s doubtful he transforms into an above-average defender at the position.
Last November, Dozier agreed to a $2.72MM deal to avoid arbitration. It remains to be seen if this extension changes that figure. At the moment, the Royals have around $90MM on the books for the upcoming season, right in line with last year’s payroll. Besides Dozier, only Whit Merrifield and recent free agent signees Carlos Santana and Mike Minor have guaranteed money on the books beyond 2021. That should leave plenty of long-term payroll space for the Royals, who will see Salvador Pérez and Jorge Soler reach free agency (barring extensions of their own) next offseason.