Why the Royals moved on from Hunter Dozier, and what’s next in free agency

On Monday, the Kansas City Royals surprisingly moved on from Hunter Dozier. Here’s why they did it and what’s coming next.

In recent weeks, the Kansas City Royals had been internally discussing whether to move on from infielder Hunter Dozier.

They had just signed Dozier to a four-year, $25 million contract extension in 2021 that included a fifth-year club option, but his play on the field did come close to meeting expectations. Dozier, 31, was hitting .183/.253/.305 with two home runs and nine RBI and never seemed fully recovered from a thumb injury that he suffered in game one of the 2021 season.

Still, Dozier was a valued locker room presence, and a leader on a young ball club. He provided value and on a salary that paid an average of $6.25 million per year, the team could justify paying that salary. But the Royals elected to move on and save a roster spot for the 23-year-old Maikel Garcia.

MLB Rumors: What’s next for Hunter Dozier?

Dozier is now subject to waivers, where he will likely clear, and become a free agent. Any team that signs him will only have to pay the prorated veterans minimum, with the Royals on the hook for the remainder of his $16.75 million contract.

In free agency, Dozier is expected to have a decent market, according to sources. A player of his caliber — 73 career home runs, the ability to play the infield and outfield, and veteran leader — on a cheap contract is something that will surely intrigue teams looking for roster depth. Perhaps a change of scenery will help him bounce back.

Both privately and publicly, the Royals have insisted that the outcome Dozier’s extension will not dissuade them from doing deals in the future. There is one candidate on the roster, Vinny Pasquantino, who could be due for an extension, though it’s unknown whether talks have taken place or not.

While the New York Yankees designating Aaron Hicks for assignment hardly came as a surprise, the Royals moving on from Dozier caught many people in baseball circles off guard.

“You don’t see the Royals eat that much money often,” said one rival executive.

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