Adding Dozier gives Padres infield options

Veteran, who owns strong numbers against lefties, may give Tingler ability to platoon players

February 23rd, 2020

PEORIA, Ariz. -- The Padres added a veteran and a reigning World Series champ to their wide-open second-base race on Sunday.

agreed to a Minor League deal with San Diego, which includes an invitation to Major League Spring Training. The 32-year-old righty hitter is expected to join the club on Monday, once he completes his physical.

"He's been to the World Series the last two years in a row," said Padres manager Jayce Tingler. "He's got a really good track record, a very good resume. He's played on a lot of winning teams, especially the last couple years. We're excited to get around him."

Dozier, who is entering his ninth season in the big leagues, batted .238/.340/.430 with 20 homers and 20 doubles for the Nationals last season. He's had plenty of success against left-handed pitching, posting a .900 OPS last season and a career mark of .855.

Where he fits
With Eric Hosmer at first, Manny Machado at third and Fernando Tatis Jr. at shortstop, Dozier slots right into the only true position battle in the Padres' infield this spring.

Jurickson Profar is the projected starter at second base, with Greg Garcia as the primary backup and utility option. But Dozier will be given every opportunity to seize that job.

Those three aren't the only contenders. Also in that mix are Ty France, Esteban Quiroz, Owen Miller and Jake Cronenworth.

The Padres' solidity across the rest of the infield frees up roster space for a few of those players to make the team. Given their diverse skill sets, it seems very likely at least three second-base options make the Opening Day squad.

"Each of them are going to bring valuable things to the team,” Tingler said. “Now, it's going to be about us deciphering what are the qualities we're going to need."

What he brings
First and foremost, Dozier brings a wealth of experience and a serious big league track record. He spent most of his first seven seasons with Minnesota, where he received MVP votes in three straight seasons from 2015-17. He was an All-Star in '15, then launched 42 homers and was worth 6.3 WAR in '16.

Dozier isn't quite that player anymore, but he's still valuable. His .340 OBP would've ranked third on the 2019 Padres among players with at least 300 plate appearances, and his 22.3 percent chase rate would've been easily the lowest on the team.

Dozier was basically a league average hitter last season. He posted a 99 wRC+ -- an all-encompassing hitting metric, where 100 is league average. At a position like second base, where he won a Gold Glove in 2017, that's immensely valuable.

"He's an excellent defender, 40-home-run hitter," said Hosmer, who saw most of Dozier's early career up close while with Kansas City. "He was part of that group that turned that team around in Minnesota. ... He's a good fit."

The state of the second-base race
Profar is still the favorite for the starting job at second, but he'll have to earn it. Dozier and Garcia could make a serious case this spring. France and Cronenworth might also steal at-bats as utility players.

The Padres have some decisions to make before they break camp a month from Sunday, and that's just fine with them.

"That's our most open competition," Tingler said of second base. "But the season happens and injuries happen, and that's a part of the game. The more quality depth we can build, it gives us options for later down the line."

Profar, Garcia and Dozier seem like early roster favorites. But the addition of a 26th roster spot means the Padres might opt to keep a fourth second-base candidate. Cronenworth is intriguing because he's a two-way player capable of eating an inning or two on the mound each week. France is a nice bench option, as well, given his righty pinch-hit bat and his ability to serve as a third catcher.

One noteworthy side effect
Dozier torches lefties. Profar had excellent numbers against left-handed pitching last season, too. There's one notable Padres infielder who hasn't had much success against left-handers: Eric Hosmer.

The Padres, of course, are heavily invested in Hosmer as their everyday first baseman. He signed an eight-year deal worth $144 million two seasons ago. But Hosmer has posted a .557 OPS against lefties since arriving in San Diego. If those numbers don't improve, the Padres might have no choice but to platoon at first base.

Some have theorized that a Hosmer/Wil Myers split makes sense, given that Myers' best season in San Diego came as a first baseman. But the Padres need Myers in their outfield. After trading Hunter Renfroe and Manuel Margot, they're already skewing too left-handed.

In the infield, things are different. Profar has played first in the past, and the righty-hitting France has plenty of experience there, too. At Cactus League media day this week, general manager A.J. Preller was asked about a potential first-base platoon. He didn't rule it out.

"First base versus left-handers? That's been a question some people have asked in terms of Eric Hosmer last year against left-handed pitching," Preller said. "Eric's worked really hard. We'll get into Spring Training, see where he's at versus all pitching. That's Plan A, and we'll adjust off that."

If that's Plan A, the Padres might have just signed Plan B.