Hunter Dozier appeared to be breaking through with the Royals in a big way during the 2019 season.
In addition to the league-leading 10 triples, Dozier hit 29 doubles, 26 home runs, and drove in 84 runs. Those numbers dipped during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, but the Royals believed better days were ahead for Dozier, who was the eighth overall pick in the 2013 MLB draft.
In March 2021, the Royals signed Dozier to a four-year, $25 million contract extension, but he was not able to replicate the success he had in 2019.
On Monday, the Royals designated Dozier for assignment and shared this message on Twitter: “Thank you, Hunter, for your years of hard work. We wish you and your family the best going forward.”
Dozier, who played third base, first base and the outfield, was batting . 183 with two home runs and 9 RBI in 29 games this season.
“It was an extremely difficult decision based on who he is as a person, as a teammate, as a worker,” said Royals manager Matt Quatraro. “We think of him as an individual, the world of him. It was a collective decision on what was best for the team at this time.
In seven seasons (594 career games), Dozier slashed .238/.305/.420 with 108 doubles and 73 home runs. He offered veteran leadership within the clubhouse, but the Royals decided to better evaluate young players by unlocking more at-bats in the lineup – hence the move to release him.
“There’s no doubt it was tough,” Royals general manager JJ Piccolo said. “10 years he’s been with the organization and we’ve known him since day one. We just saw how our team is starting to shape up and how we balance our roster.”
In a similar move, Nikki Lopez was activated from the injured list after a rehab assignment. Lopez had appendectomy surgery during a Royals visit to Minnesota in late April.
“With Nicky coming back tonight, it’s going to be a little difficult to get him on the field,” Piccolo said. “Just feel bad for Hunter, because he’s such a pro. He works hard and is everything you want in a teammate. Just want to wish him the best.”
Unless Dozier is claimed by another team, the Royals will eat up a significant amount of money.
Dozier, 31, was making $7.5 million this season and was to be paid $9.25 million next season. There is also a $1 million buyout for the 2025 season.
The Royals will pay Dozier approximately $5 million for the remainder of the season and will be paid approximately $15.25 million.
“With the support of ownership, we were able to make this decision and move forward,” Piccolo said. “We’ll just have to look ahead to what’s going to happen in the coming years.”
The Royals have an interesting infield core. The group consists of Lopez, Bobby Witt Jr., Maikel Garcia, Michael Massey, Nick Prato, and Vinnie Pasquantino. The core has grown together and this move gives the Royals an opportunity to push that valuation.
Piccolo noted that López’ return from injury played a part in the decision. He also pointed to how Garcia has played since his call-up from Triple-A Omaha.
Piccolo said, “Michael came up when Nicky Lopez was injured, it gave Mikel an opportunity to come up and play.” “We like what we’re seeing out of him and we know we like him defensively. Now with Nicki coming back, it forced our decision. But both of those are definitely what we can do.” are a part of it.”