WASHINGTON (AP) — Brian Dozier turned down a more lucrative deal to join what he hopes is a playoff team with the Nationals.
The 31-year-old signed a $9 million, one-year contract with Washington that makes him the new second baseman and a potentially a bridge from Daniel Murphy to prospect Carter Kieboom. Dozier said Tuesday other clubs offered him more money and longer deals, but he and his wife opted for the opportunity to win now.
“We’re not the ones to go with the highest bidder by any means or any of that kind of stuff,” Dozier said on a conference call. “With more years and dollars out there, we felt like this one-year deal with the Nats would be the best fit for us.”
Dozier’s contract includes $2 million deferred without interest until Jan. 15, 2020. Next winter could bring an even bigger windfall if he’s able to get his swing back on track.
Last season, Dozier battled a bone bruise in his left knee and hit a career-low .215 with the Minnesota Twins and Los Angeles Dodgers. He averaged 35 homers over the preceding three seasons, with a career best of 42 for Minnesota in 2016, and is a career .246 hitter.
Washington could be counting on Dozier to supple some of that power in the middle of the lineup if star outfielder Bryce Harper signs elsewhere. Dozier can’t control that, but he said his struggles in 2018 serve as motivation to bounce back.
“Going into this year personally you kind of have a chip on your shoulder just because you want to make sure you prove people wrong,” Dozier said. “I felt like I’ve done that throughout my career. I had to do that, which is perfectly fine with me because I enjoy that.”
Asked if a one-year deal was preferable for him to reset his value for another crack at free agency, Dozier said, “Resetting yourself for next year and all that kind of stuff, that all takes care of itself.”
Dozier believes joining Washington puts him in the best frame of mind to take care of all that. With just 27 postseason plate appearances, he said signing on to a team that has been a perennial playoff contender was a top priority, especially because the Nationals have been aggressive in adding left-handed starter Patrick Corbin, catchers Yan Gomes and Kurt Suzuki and reliever Trevor Rosenthal this offseason.
“You feed off that, and it brings out the best in yourself,” Dozier said. “That’s exactly how it is and helped make my decision a lot easier.”
Only needing to commit one year to Dozier made the decision easier for the Nationals, who only got 56 games out of Murphy during an injury-marred season. Dozier at his pre-2018 form is a significant upgrade at the plate over Wilmer Difo, and he’s confident the knee injury is behind him and helped make him an even better hitter by learning how to adjust.
“I was a very learning year,” Dozier said. “Learn how to fight through things and it kind of made me a better player and person, and I’m up for the challenge this year.”
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