In an offseason where free agency has been much more active than anticipated, the Cubs have been, as predicted, among the quietest teams in baseball. The Cubs have been subject to their fair share of trade rumors, but are just one of a few teams in baseball who have yet to deal out a guaranteed Major League contract. This was largely anticipated as Theo Epstein and Co. entered a second consecutive offseason in a salary crunch, but it’s largely disappointing to fans, especially when there’s no action on the trade front either. Still, it’s hard to justify a trade of star players like Kris Bryant, and while the Cubs have seemingly been connected to Whit Merrifield rumors since he made his debut, his price is proving to be too steep. Another potential trade target for the Cubs, though, is a teammate of Merrifield’s, and he may make even more sense to acquire in a trade: Hunter Dozier.
Dozier is appealing for many reasons, the largest of which is his salary. Dozier has accrued just over two years of service time, meaning that in 2020 he will still be in his final pre-arbitration year, earning the league minimum salary of roughly $570,000. Considering the Cubs salary concerns, this is highly valuable, as it has nearly no impact on the team’s ability to stay under the luxury tax while still adding a bat that should make a positive difference in the lineup. The Cubs also sought Merrifield for this reason, but Dozier should not demand the same prospect return, possibly making a Dozier trade more probable if the Cubs don’t want to deal any of their best four prospects.
Dozier is certainly a worthwhile target for a bat to add to the lineup. Though the former first round pick stalled a bit on his path to the Majors, in 2019 he broke out with one of the hottest first halves in baseball en route to a 124 wRC+ and 3.0 fWAR for the season. Dozier’s average exit velocity was in the 85th percentile of all Major League hitters as well, indicating that he tapped into his considerable raw power to fuel this success. Dozier has no shortage of speed either, as he checked in in the 80th percentile of sprint speed and tied for the Major League lead with ten triples in 2019. This combination of power and speed is fairly rare, and while there are still some flaws in Dozier’s game, he demonstrated in 2019 that he has the raw tools for success and the ability to produce in game as well.
Still, there are several drawbacks to consider with this deal. Dozier is now 28 years old with only one productive season under his belt, and it’s very possible that he doesn’t reproduce his 2019 success again in his career. This is all the more viable when considering his BABIP of .339 and several expected statistics that fall much closer to league average than most of Dozier’s 2019 results, all indicating that Dozier’s 2019 success was an overperformance, attributable in a considerable capacity to luck. In addition, Dozier’s defense is far from stellar, as he was worth -5 defensive runs saved in 2019. Without a guarantee that his bat will be excellent, it’s not ideal to take on a defensive liability like that.
In addition, Dozier may not be the best fit for the Cubs with their current roster. To begin with, Dozier plays third base and first base; the Cubs already have one of the most iconic players in team history playing first base (Anthony Rizzo), and one of the best players in baseball (Kris Bryant) isn’t even playing his primary position of third base for the majority of the time with players such as David Bote fighting for playing time. Dozier is now expected to play right field for the Royals in 2020, but the Cubs are paying Jason Heyward a notoriously large amount of money to fill that position as well. Beyond positional considerations, Dozier may not be the greatest fit for the Cubs in that his profile as a hitter is too similar to what the Cubs already have: he walks at a slightly above average rate and strikes out at a rate well above average. The Cubs have expressed their desire to add a hitter who works the count more than their current squad, and Dozier can hardly boast that he’s the man they’re looking for in that regard.
Still, especially if Kris Bryant does end up suiting up somewhere other than the North Side in 2020, Dozier is a low cost, low risk addition who may soften the blow of losing Bryant in the short term and provide value to the team in the years to come as well.
Ultimately, Dozier isn’t currently the best fit the Cubs will encounter for a position player to add, but considering his production and his relatively low cost, he’s a reasonable addition to a lineup that has continually come up short for the past two years. While this certainly isn’t a headliner move that Cubs fans wish for, it still would benefit the Cubs in 2020 and beyond as they look to maintain their competitiveness beyond the near future.