Kansas City Royals part ways with Hunter Dozier. Here’s how much they still owe him

Hunter Dozier appeared to break through in a big way with the Royals during the 2019 season.

In addition to a league-leading 10 triples, Dozier hit 29 doubles, 26 home runs and drove in 84 runs. Those numbers dropped off during the 2020 pandemic-shortened season, but the Royals believed better days were ahead for Dozier, who was the eighth overall pick in the 2013 MLB Draft.

In March 2021, the Royals signed Dozier to four-year, $25 million contract extension, but he was never able to replicate the success he had in 2019.

On Monday, the Royals designated Dozier for assignment and shared this message on Twitter: “Thank you, Hunter, for your years of hard work. We wish you and your family the best moving forward.”

Dozier, who played third base, first base and outfield, was batting .183 this season two home runs and 9 RBIs in 29 games.

“It was an extremely tough decision based on who he is as a person, as a teammate, as a worker,” Royals manager Matt Quatraro said. “We think the world of him as a person. It was a collective decision on what we thought was best at this time for the team.”

Over seven seasons (594 career games), Dozier slashed .238/.305/.420 with 108 doubles and 73 home runs. He offered veteran leadership within the clubhouse, but the Royals decided to get a better evaluation of younger players by unlocking more at-bats in the lineup — hence the move was made to release him.

“No doubt, this was a tough one,” Royals general manager J.J. Picollo said. “It’s 10 years he has been with the organization and we have known him since Day 1. We just looked at how our team is starting to shape up and opportunities with how we balance our roster out.”

In a corresponding move, infield Nicky Lopez was activated off the injured list following a rehab assignment. Lopez had appendectomy surgery during the Royals trip to Minnesota in late April.

“With Nicky coming back tonight, it made it a little bit tougher to get him on the field,” Picollo said. “Just feel bad for Hunter, as he is such a pro. He works hard and is everything you want in a teammate. Just want to wish him the best.”

Unless Dozier is claimed by another team, the Royals will end up eating a substantial amount of money.

Dozier, 31, was making $7.5 million this season and was due to be paid $9.25 million next season. There is also a $1 million buyout for the 2025 season.

The Royals will be paying Dozier roughly $5 million for the remainder of this season and will owe him approximately $15.25 million.

“With the support of ownership, we were able to make this decision and move on,” Picollo said. “We just have to look forward to what’s happening in the coming years.”

The Royals have an intriguing infield core. The group includes Lopez, Bobby Witt Jr., Maikel Garcia, Michael Massey, Nick Pratto and Vinnie Pasquantino. The core has developed together and the move gives the Royals a chance to further that evaluation.

Picollo mentioned that Lopez’s return from injury played a role in the decision. He also referenced how Garcia has played since his call-up from Triple-A Omaha.

“Maikel coming up when Nicky Lopez got hurt, it created an opportunity for Maikel to come up and play,” Picollo said. “We like what we are seeing out of him and we know we like him defensively. Now with Nicky coming back, it forced our decision here. But those two are certainly a part of what we are doing.”