Although the free agent market is running thin, there is still a slugging infielder the Pittsburgh Pirates could still go after.
As we near the start of Spring Training games, the free agent board is getting fairly slim. Not too many interesting names remain, and most teams have already filled the gaps on their roster by this point of the off-season. However, there are still a few lingering around that the Pittsburgh Pirates should take a look into. One of which is former All-Star, and World Series champion, second baseman Brian Dozier.
Dozier bounced back from an awful 2018 season where his OPS dropped below .700 (.696) and OPS+ sat at just 89. In 2019, Dozier was roughly a league average. His slash line included a .238 batting average, .340 OBP and .430 slugging percentage. For the sixth season in a row, the slugger blasted at least 20 home runs, hitting exactly 20 last year. That resulted in a 95 OPS+ and 99 wRC+.
This is still a far cry from his heyday back in 2016 and 2017. In those two years Dozier batted .269/.349/.522 with 76 home runs, the sixth most long balls in these two seasons, and a 130 OPS+. His fielding has also declined from a once Gold Glove peak. At the keystone, Dozier had -5 DRS and was in the bottom sixth percentile of outs above average. He did register a solid 1.7 UZR, though.
Despite his declining offensive profile Dozier can still get on base. Last year, he was in the top 10 percentile in walk rate at 12.7%. His ISO of .192 still ranked him as a top 10 slugger at second base. He has also seen his hard it rate increase. Last year it sat at 39%, which was still slightly above average.
If the Pirates were to sign Dozier I don’t think he would see much playing time at his natural position to start the season. However, Dozier could shift to the hot corner and provide the desperately needed platoon for Colin Moran. Last year, Dozier hit .280/.375/.525 in 136 plate appearances vs southpaws. Then once Ke’Bryan Hayes takes over primary third base duties, Dozier could also platoon over at second base. Adam Frazier carried a .671 OPS vs left-handers last season, and Kevin Newman had reverse splits (.824 OPS vs RHP, .729 OPS vs LHP).
Dozier could also be a good bat off the bench. Even though his .237 batting average with runners in scoring position isn’t very awe-inspiring, the right-hander was very selective with his pitches. He walked 24 times to oppose his 20 strikeouts. In high leverage situations, Dozier batted for a strong .258/.375/.455 line in 80 trips to the plate. Although it is a small 23 plate appearance sample size, Brian did have a .978 OPS when he came into the game as a substitute.
Brian Dozier hasn’t drawn a lot of attention this winter. Aside from the Chicago Cubs and Arizona Diamondbacks taking a quick glance at him, there hasn’t been any other teams interested in the former Twin. The Nationals certainly won’t be interested in him as they filled the roster space he left behind by resigning postseason heroes Howie Kendrick and Asdrubal Cabrera, while also bringing in Starlin Castro. This combined with the proximity of time between now and the start of Spring Training games, Dozier might be ok settling on a cheap one year deal, or even a minor league deal.