Third baseman Hunter Dozier and the Royals “are in serious talks” about a multi-year contract extension, according to FanSided’s Robert Murray (Twitter link). Specific terms aren’t known, although Dozier has two years of arbitration eligibility remaining before reaching free-agent status following the 2023 season. Dozier is already set to earn $2.72 million in 2021 after reaching an arb-avoiding deal with K.C. back in December.
The eighth pick of the 2013 draft, Dozier enjoyed a breakout season in 2019, hitting .279/.348/.522 with 26 homers and a league-best 10 triples over 586 plate appearances. That was followed up by a less-impressive 2020 (.228/.344/.392 over 186 PA) but with some obvious extenuating circumstances — not just the 2020 campaign’s smaller sample size, but Dozier also missed more than two weeks at the start of the season due to a positive COVID-19 diagnosis. Dozier’s hard-contact numbers dropped off considerably from 2019 to 2020, although his walk rate also significantly improved.
It sets the stage for what could be an interesting set of extension talks, considering that 2020 wasn’t exactly a great platform year. Dozier turned 29 last August, so he might have more incentive to lock in some long-term security now rather than bet on hitting a big payday on the open market entering his age-32 season. It’s worth noting that L. Warner Companies Inc. (Dozier’s agency) also represents another prominent Royal in Whit Merrifield, who signed an extension with Kansas City just over two years ago, although Merrifield and Dozier aren’t really comps — Merrifield is 31 months older and was still entering his final pre-arb season when he inked his long-term deal.
There aren’t a ton of great recent comps for Dozier overall, in looking at recent extensions of players who had between three and four years of MLB service time. The odd nature of the 2020 season adds another layer of difficulty in trying to predict what a Dozier extension could look like, since those past players didn’t have such an outlier of a year factoring into the situation. The list of players who have signed an extension since the pandemic began consists only of unique mega-deals (i.e. Mookie Betts and Fernando Tatis Jr.), players who signed contracts covering only arbitration-eligible years or Yuli Gurriel’s one-year extension with the Astros at the end of September.
Extensions have been a key plank of Dayton Moore’s team-building strategy since he became Kansas City’s GM in 2006. After an offseason that saw the Royals make some notable moves in acquiring Andrew Benintendi and signing Carlos Santana and Mike Minor to two-year free agent deals, it’s clear that Moore and his front office are preparing to be competitive after four straight losing seasons. It’s safe to presume that the Royals will explore long-term deals with multiple young building-block players as spring training rolls on, with such names as Adalberto Mondesi and Brad Keller standing out as possible extension candidates. Kansas City could also look into locking up younger players who are even earlier in their careers (such as Brady Singer or Kris Bubic), and veterans like Jorge Soler and franchise stalwart Salvador Perez are each just a year away from free agency.