Brian Dozier was signed by the Nationals to take control of second base until Carter Kieboom was ready — either late in 2019 or to start 2020.
If that was truly the goal, the signing has to be chalked up to a failure, but I’d argue that it wasn’t.
As late as May 15 (his 32nd birthday), Dozier was batting .187 with and OPS of .601 — bordering on abysmal for an everyday player. But then he went on somewhat of a hot streak.
From May 17 through August 4 (63 games), he batted .279 with 11 home runs, 17 doubles, 34 runs, and 33 RBIs in 204 at bats. Considering he was predominantly hitting either sixth or seventh in the lineup, those are pretty impressive statistics.
Those dates may seem arbitrary, but that’s not entirely true. May 17 was roughly six weeks into the season, and just before the conclusion of the infamous 19-31 start. August 4 was the day before the signing of Asdrubal Cabrera. Therefore, while Dozier wasn’t an effective bridge to Kieboom, he (more or less) did the job of passing the baton to Cabrera, who more than did his part from that point on.
Truthfully, Dozier’s case is largely tied to Cabrera’s. The latter certainly has the upper hand, but Dozier’s midseason surge is a clear indicator of what he can do when he’s in a rhythm at the plate.
Dozier is also considered a better defender than Cabrera, although Asdrubal had a remarkably steady partial season in the field for Washington.
The biggest benefit of keeping Dozier, however, might be his clubhouse personality — a dynamic that became all the more apparent as 2019 progressed.
Dozier was signed by the Nationals for $9 million last offseason, but his price tag is almost guaranteed to come down this time around. He will be 33 years old for most of the season, and he is now two full seasons removed from his prime years — no longer the true bounce back candidate that he recently had been.
He was only slightly below league-average at the plate this season, but his defense has also slipped. Dozier is no longer a second baseman that a contending team should bank on without some sort of contingency plan.
Then again, the Nationals do have a backup plan — and arguably two (Kieboom and Luis Garcia, the organization’s top two prospects). If the only objective is to be a reliable bridge to the young infielders — sound familiar? — Dozier is certainly sufficient, especially if Washington can’t retain Cabrera.