The addition of Brian Dozier complicates the San Diego Padres’ second base competition.
Earlier today it was reported that Brian Dozier agreed to a Minor League deal with the San Diego Padres with an invite to Major League Spring Training camp. According to Jon Heyman, the deal is worth $2.2 million plus incentives should Dozier make the big league club.
Dozier joins a long list of candidates competing for the second base job in camp this year. He’s coming off a season in which he won a World Series with the Washington Nationals as the team’s primary second baseman. However, the 32-year-old is perhaps best known for his time with the Minnesota Twins, where he spent a stint as one of the most dominant infield home run threats in baseball, hitting 167 long balls from 2012 to 2018 with the Twins. Through those years, he led all second basemen in homers and was fifth among his peers in fWAR, peaking with a 6+ fWAR season and 42 homers in 2016.
In 2019, Dozier put up a .238/.340/.430 line for the Nationals while being one of the most disciplined hitters in baseball.
Among players with at least 450 plate appearances in 2019, Dozier ranked ninth with a chase rate of just 22.3%, a few spots behind new teammate Tommy Pham who sat at third with 20.0%. This also came with a rise in his hard-hit rate for a third straight year as he climbed from 37.3% in 2018 to 38.1%.
Dozier’s 2019 was very much a tale of two different players.
Against lefties, he slashed .280/.375/.525 in contrast with a .221/.327/.393 line when facing right-handed pitchers. Dozier’s splits make it very likely that if he sees substantial time with the Padres in 2020, it will be as a member of a platoon, probably splitting time with the left-handed-hitting Greg Garcia who had a .254/.370/.373 line against right-handed pitchers last year. This time split would likely push Jurickson Profar into a utility role as a switch-hitting option off the bench who is significantly better against left-handed pitching.
Dozier making the major league roster would also, more than likely, make Ty France redundant and push him down to El Paso or the trade block. It is interesting to note that France has been seen working as a catcher a bit early in camp, possibly to add more versatility to his toolbox with the upcoming roster crunch.
Some of social media were quick to point out the similarities the Dozier signing has to the Ian Kinsler signing the last offseason. Both players were former top second basemen on the wrong side of 30, signed to fill a role that was expected to be held by younger players. However, there are significant differences in the two signings that are important to acknowledge. Dozier is four years younger than Kinsler was when he was signed to his two-year/$8 million deal. Kinsler’s deal was also fully guaranteed, while Dozier’s is a minor league deal that will only pay him $2.2 million should he make the team in 2020. The Padres are still paying for the Kinsler deal as they agreed to pay out his final year over the next five years after he retired and remained with the organization in a front-office role. If Dozier struggles, it will be a lot easier and cheaper for the Padres to cut bait with him.
The Dozier signing is not one that needed to happen for the Padres, as there were already several other options in big league camp. However, more competition and a veteran presence from a guy with a track record of winning is never a bad thing. With little financial commitment, Dozier is a classic low risk, high reward signing for a team like the Padres.