As the calendar approaches the new year most of the high impact free agents are off the board — Josh Donaldson is the notable exception.
The Rays had been connected to Edwin Encarnacion (do we write that every year?) to fill their need for a right-handed bat. The White Sox, however, have reportedly agreed to a deal with the slugging DH/1B. The Rays reportedly made a multi-year offer earlier to Howie Kendrick to play a part time role as a designated hitter, first baseman, and second baseman, but Kendrick signed with the Nationals.
So what is the Rays Plan B?
The next target down the list should be Kendrick’s teammate on the Nationals last year, Brian Dozier. Dozier had a disappointing 2018 split between the Minnesota Twins and Los Angeles Dodgers before agreeing to a one year $9MM deal with the Nationals last winter.
He bounced back some in 2019 hitting .238/.340/.430 and putting up a 99 wRC+. It was a minor improvement on his .215/.305/.391 and 90 wRC+ put up in 2018. Defensively he improved a bit by DRS (-8 to -5), but UZR saw a major improvement (-6.4 to +1.7). It was the first positive season season he’s posted at second base since 2016.
Dozier isn’t the same impact player who put up 19 fWAR over a four year period from 2014-17 for the Twins, but he is a capable player that if forced into an everyday role wouldn’t hurt.
Over the course of his career he has hit left handed pitchers very well, putting up a .270/.354/.500 line and 129 wRC+ while being a league average bat against right handed pitchers hitting .236/.315/.421 and putting up a 99 wRC+.
In 136 plate appearances last year he hit .280/.375/.525 and put up a 128 wRC+ roughly in line with his career rate against left handed pitchers. Over the last three years he has hit .270/.373/.481 and put up a 127 wRC+ over 498 plate appearances against left handed pitchers.
Dozier hasn’t shown a lot of defensive versatility in the past with 8,903.1 innings at second base and only 732.1 at shortstop in 2012. He would pair well as a platoon with Brandon Lowe at second base and might be able to cover first base when needed.
2019 was the first time that Dozier hasn’t been an everyday starter. He started most days, but typically had 1-2 days off a week.
Steamer projects Dozier to hit .235/.326/.436 and put up a 99 wRC+ while earning 1.7 fWAR over 510 plate appearances. The overall production could be improved on a rate basis by limiting his plate appearances against right handed pitchers.
Is there a team willing to give him everyday playing time? Last week the Cleveland Indians, with the biggest hole at second base, agreed to signed Cesar Hernandez.
The other teams that could use Dozier the most are the Oakland Athletics and the Washington Nationals. Oakland faces a decision on two prospects who are out of options, Franklin Barreto and Jorge Mateo. The Nationals become a much more likely option if they aren’t able to sign Donaldson or trade for one of the high profile third baseman that might be on the trade market like Kris Bryant or Nolan Arenado. The Nationals could use Kendrick there until they are ready to call up Carter Kieboom.
Should Dozier be ready to be a part-time player who might get 400 or so plate appearances, the Rays offer a great opportunity to be a part of a competitive team and contribute.
And we know the guy can celebrate a World Series win in style: