The Nationals have agreed to terms with veteran second baseman Brian Dozier on a one-year contract, perhaps helping offset somewhat the power they would lose if Bryce Harper ends up signing elsewhere while also filling the one remaining vacancy in their projected 2019 lineup.
Dozier’s deal, which is pending a physical, is worth a total of $9 million, with $2 million of that deferred, according to a source familiar with the terms. ESPN’s Jeff Passan was first to report the agreement.
It’s a modest contract for a former All-Star who received MVP votes in three consecutive seasons while playing for the Twins, and it allows the Nationals to keep second base open in the long term for top prospect Carter Kieboom. It was available to the club because Dozier, who turns 32 in May, is coming off a down year in which he hit a combined .215 with a .696 OPS for the Twins and Dodgers.
The Nationals will hope Dozier returns to form at the plate, banking on the fact he has averaged 28 homers, 80 RBIs and a .782 OPS over the last six seasons, making him one of the most productive second basemen in the sport.
Even in a down year by his standards, though, Dozier still hit 21 homers with 30 doubles and 72 RBIs. The Nationals will welcome that kind of production, especially if Harper doesn’t return and they need to find power from other spots in the lineup.
General manager Mike Rizzo had been in the market for a second baseman all winter, and there was no shortage of available options on the free agent market. In the end, he went with a short-term deal for Dozier over the long-term deals that likely would have been required to sign DJ LeMahieu or Marwin Gonzalez.
Rizzo also will hope Dozier returns to form in the field after struggling in 2018. Hampered in part by a balky knee that he finally revealed in September, he dropped off precipitously from a 2017 campaign in which he won a Gold Glove Award. Dozier, who committed only five errors in 2017, was charged with 12 last season and finished with minus-8 Defensive Runs Saved. FanGraphs.com rated him 30th out of 33 second basemen in the majors who played at least 500 innings in the field.
Even if Dozier doesn’t return to form, the Nationals won’t have invested too much in him. They have Wilmer Difo returning as a backup infielder who could become a late-inning defensive replacement, and Howie Kendrick is aiming to return from a ruptured Achilles tendon.
More importantly, the club hasn’t clogged up the position long-term, leaving it open for top prospect Kieboom, who could be ready to make his big league debut sometime this year, or at worst in 2020.