Even on the heels of a subpar 2018 season in which he played through a knee injury and saw his production decrease, Brian Dozier said he had multi-year offers from other clubs this winter.
How, then, did it come to be that the veteran second baseman found himself on a conference call with Washington reporters this afternoon, discussing the one-year, $9 million contract he just signed with the Nationals?
“Basically, what it came down to was just where my wife and I wanted to be,” he said. “With numerous offers and more years and all that kind of stuff, you find that this fit seemed like the best fit for my wife and I. And we couldn’t be any happier.”
After 6 1/2 seasons with the Twins, then a few months with the Dodgers down the stretch last season, Dozier became a free agent for the first time this winter. His priorities were fairly simple: Play for a winning team, in a town he and his wife liked.
Conversations he’d had over the years with Kurt Suzuki and Josh Willingham, both former Twins who also previously played for the Nationals, helped make the decision to come to D.C. easy.
“They raved about it,” Dozier said. “Not only within the organization, how they treat families, the travel, etc., but also the community, how nice it is in the summers, everything. It just seemed like a really good fit.”
The Nationals certainly hope Dozier fits in well with a lineup that might need an extra power boost if Bryce Harper signs elsewhere in the coming weeks. Having averaged 29.6 homers and 82.4 RBIs each of the last five seasons, Dozier is the rare second baseman who can consistently hit the ball out of the park and drive in runs with the best middle-of-the-order hitters.
Those averages included a 2018 season in which Dozier’s numbers went down. He didn’t reveal it at the time, but in September he admitted suffering a bone bruise in his left knee in April that lingered throughout the year. It never forced him off the active roster - he’s never spent a day on the disabled list in his career - but it did lead to some bad habits at the plate that left him with a .215 batting average, 21 homers, 72 RBIs and a .696 OPS that was his worst since he was a rookie in 2012.
“No excuses, by any means,” he said. “But I think offensively I developed some bad habits. And it kind of led to some of the results. But with all that being said, it was a good learning year, so to speak. I learned how to fight through things. And it made me a better player and person. I’m up for the challenge this year.”
Dozier said the injury was “100 percent” healed once he had a chance to rest after the World Series, and he doesn’t expect there to be any lingering concerns heading into spring training.
He also knows he now has a golden opportunity to re-prove himself to a baseball world that might have soured on him last season.
“Going into this year, personally you kind of have a chip on your shoulder,” the 31-year-old said. “Just because you want to prove people wrong, I guess you could say. I felt like I’ve done that throughout my career. I had to do that. Which is perfectly fine with me, because I enjoy that.”
And if that isn’t motivation enough, the opportunity to help lift the Nationals back to the postseason only drives Dozier further.
“Playing for a winning ballclub that’s done what they’ve done the last couple of years, and then not making the playoffs and then responding and being active in the free agent market and showing fans they’re all-in and ready to win this year, that fuels you a little bit,” he said. “I’ve been on some winning ballclubs and some really bad ballclubs. Every time you win and every time you have a front office expecting to win, it fuels you a lot. You feed off that. It brings out the best in yourself. And that’s exactly what it is, and helped make my decision a lot easier.”