Royals lock up Dozier: 'I want to win here'

Top pick from 2013 signs 4-year extension, club option for 5th season

March 1st, 2021

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- When the Royals drafted an athletic, powerful infielder eighth overall in the 2013 MLB Draft, general manager Dayton Moore and his team in the front office knew they had a cornerstone piece of their future on the way.

Over eight years, they watched grow into a versatile player they could count on with whatever was asked. The Royals watched him break out offensively, displaying the power they knew he had when they drafted him. And they saw him find his voice as a leader in the clubhouse.

On Monday, the Royals made sure that piece would stay in Kansas City until at least 2024, signing the 29-year-old Dozier to a four-year, $25 million contract extension with a fifth-year, $10 million team option. There are escalators and bonuses that could max out the contract at $49 million over the five years, a source said. ESPN’s Jeff Passan was the first to report the contract terms.

“It’s our goal to keep as many of our talented players here together as long as we possibly can,” Moore said. “Continuity, togetherness is so crucial if we’re going to win and have long-term success. To be able to create that is really important.

“[Dozier] was identified as this type of player out of the Draft. Someone who was committed to the team, committed to winning, committed to family, committed to playing this game the right way, so he’s being rewarded for that.”

The extension begins this season and buys out the remaining two arbitration-eligible years for Dozier, as well as two free-agent years.

“I’m not a big fan of the business side of baseball,” Dozier said Monday. “You grow up loving this game just because you love baseball. And then as you get drafted, the business side does come into it, and it’s a blessing because you can provide for your family. So now I can not think about the business side of baseball and really focus on winning and having fun and doing whatever I can to help the team win.

“And we’re going to do a lot of winning, I can promise you that.”

Dozier is an integral part of the Royals’ lineup and a key piece to a team that wants to get back to the top of the American League Central in the next few years. The Royals spent the past offseason adding veteran players like Carlos Santana and Andrew Benintendi to their roster, signaling a desire to contend after four losing seasons.

Dozier said this spring is the most excited he’s been about any Royals team in his four-year Major League career. He’s expected to be the everyday third baseman this season, after moving around the infield and outfield since his debut in 2016. He hit .228/.344/.392 in 44 games in 2020 after a late start due to a COVID-19 infection, but his breakout year was 2019, when he posted an .870 OPS, hit 26 home runs with 84 RBIs and led the Majors with 10 triples.

The Royals are confident Dozier will return to his 2019 form, in part because he’s healthy now to start the season. He admitted last year that COVID-19 took more of a toll on his body than he realized and he had a hard time finding his strength after returning. Dozier’s average exit velocity (86.4 mph), hard-hit rate (30.9 percent) and barrel percentage (8.2 percent) last season were the lowest they had been since 2016.

With his health and endurance back, it’s not unreasonable to think the power numbers will return. And despite the down year in 2020, Dozier’s plate discipline improved. His 14.5 percent walk rate ranked No. 17 in baseball, tied with Mike Trout. His 24.4 chase percentage was the lowest of his career.

Dozier’s offensive potential, his versatility in the field and his leadership qualities were the main reasons the Royals expressed interest in extending him.

“In today’s game, and what we’re trying to accomplish, it’s really really important to have that versatility and a player with that winning mindset,” Moore said. “Hunter is willing to do whatever is necessary to help the team win. We appreciate that so much. We’ve known for a long period of time that Hunter is a foundational piece for our organization.”

For Dozier, the extension was about security for his family -- and wanting to be a Royal for as long as can be.

“If I could choose, I would be a Royal for life,” Dozier said. “This is the best organization in sports. It was a very easy decision for me. I want to be here. I want to win here.

“The last eight years have been amazing, but this is, for me, it’s just the beginning.”