September 24, 2021

Maximum Feasible Dunn

November 26, 2010 by · 6 Comments 

And all through the house not a creature was stirring, no baseball news from even a mouse.  Black Friday shoppers are out in force, but baseball has only the near silent whisperings of General Managers waiting to see which players accept arbitration before the Tuesday night deadline.

One quiet household could be turned on its head if–contrary to all bets–Adam Dunn accepts the Washington Nationals arbitration offer. That news would send GM Mike Rizzo back to the drawing board for quite a while. He has been counting on this option now for months and it is a complicated equation, one that will take years to evaluate. But in the late November quiet it is worth examining.

Rizzo turned down trade offers for Dunn from the White Sox and others in the run up to the July deadline. From Chicago he could have gotten Dan Hudson who ultimately went to Arizona, plus a similar prospect. It would have been a two for one haul, but he deferred. The chances now are that he could stand to get three or even four players ultimately for Dunn if the cards break right. It is a long shot deal, but Washington has lost almost 300 games in the past three seasons and getting maximum return for a salable commodity like Dunn is essential to see any market corrections here.

Dunn is one of the safest bets to opt for what the open market will provide him. He is a player in his prime coming off several of his best years. He wants a four-year contract that will provide him more than $12 million a year over its run. His best suitors are likely to come from the American League where his long term potential is greater where he can DH.

When he walks Rizzo will stand to gain two top draft choices for Dunn as a Type-A free agent. If a competitive AL franchise like the White Sox sign Dunn, the Nationals will receive Chicago’s 23rd pick in next June’s draft as well as a sandwich round pick. It will give them three picks from among the best 50 young talents in a draft class that is likely to among the richest in years. Rizzo has to wait until Dunn signs to see whether he gets two picks or one. If Dunn signs with one of the worst eighteen teams in MLB, then Rizzo only gets a supplemental round pick, but that is unlikely.

White Sox GM Ken Williams could see in Dunn a younger and likely cheaper version of Paul Konerko. The Detroit Tigers–who would have yielded Rizzo a second pick in next year’s draft at number nineteen–were rumored extremely interested in Dunn, but have moved on after signing Victor Martinez. The market for Dunn is thinning and that has to make Rizzo a little nervous.

But the down-side bet is not that grim. As long as Dunn signs with someone other than the Nationals, Washington and Mike Rizzo get a sandwich pick as a bonus. Then Rizzo has to sign a first baseman to replace Dunn and as one of the lower tier teams in MLB, Washington will pay no first round draft penalty for signing even a Type-A free agent.

The market for first baseman is one for buyers.  Rizzo has plenty to choose from for a Dunn replacement. He has said he wants a better fielding team in 2011. Among the free agent first baseman with better defensive reps is Adam LaRoche. LaRoche was payed $6 million on a one-year deal in 2010 by the Diamonbacks–half as much as Dunn. Assuming Rizzo can get LaRoche for slightly more money on a longer term deal, he gets a remarkably consistent offensive player who can protect Ryan Zimmerman in the batting order and will play a much better first base. More importantly he frees up enough money for Washington to pursue a starting pitcher.

The Nationals are in the hunt for Cliff Lee, but it is unlikely he will sign. The options thin out quickly thereafter, but with the additional money provided by Dunn, Rizzo can be more aggressive in going after pitchers like Carl Pavano or Jorge De La Rosa.  For the sake of argument, let’s say that Pavano and LaRoche can be signed for the money that Dunn will command in the market place. Dunn’s money will not completely underwrite their signings, but it will be in the same ballpark.

So at the end of the day, Dunn represents something much different to the Nationals in 2011. They will not have the affable power hitter that fans came to appreciate, but they will have something far more valuable.  They could have a fine first baseman and power hitter as well as an anchor for their rotation for almost the same money. They also could have two additional first round draft choices to add to their steadily improving minor league organization fronted by Bryce Harper.

If Rizzo gets the maximum feasible return on Dunn he has put a better club on the field in 2011 and substantially helped a rebuilding club for years to come. However it plays out, Adam Dunn will be multiple personalities for the Nationals in 2011.  Mike Rizzo bucked fan and press anxiety for the better part of a year to do it, but sometimes the best things happen quietly over time. Maximum feasible Dunn looks like he will be one of those regardless the finally tally.


6 Responses to “Maximum Feasible Dunn”
  1. aLL THE PLAYERS TO TALK ABOUT AND YOU GUYS SOME OF THE SMARTEST BASEBALL OBSERVORS ARE DISCUSSING dUNN AND RIZZO—WHAT ABOUT THE FREE AGENTS THAT CAN PLAY OFFENSE AND DEFENSE—WOW I am a Reds fan and believe I like Adam Dunn at the plate, but he like Kingman in the field breaks your heart, please baseball I hate the dh,but for Dunn to be Dunn he has to play in the other league not in a pro form league.

  2. BaseballinDC says:

    I’m a little unclear about a few things. First, what say does Rizzo have where Dunn goes? It seems as if it’s all up to fate, so there’s really nothing to obsess about. The fact that it’s a buyer’s market for 1B this year really doesn’t mean much – he’ll land SOMEWHERE. The more interesting topic for this post would be (a) who are the most likely places for Dunn and (2) what does each mean in terms for compensation for the Nats?

    Second, I set too close to Adam Dunn last year not to grasp how truly bad he is in the field. 1B is just too key a position to put anyone – why teams seem to think its a position of last resort is beyond me. On the other hand, Dunn seems to actually want to stay. He might not take a huge paycut, but there’s NOT a lot of people clamoring to be Nationals these days. Something to keep in mind.

  3. Ted Leavengood says:

    There is no niche of the major league market place that is not interesting and it functions to determine the value of one-dimensional players like Adam Dunn as well as more complete ones. The puzzle is how much Rizzo can get for him. Dunn is a bargaining chip to improve the Nationals. When all the pieces are in place–the draft choices, the free agents who can pitch and play defense–a picture emerges that was not there to begin with. Just trying to light the stove.

  4. BaseballinDC says:

    Thanks Ted.

    Specifically, I’m puzzled by the comment: “The puzzle is how much Rizzo can get for him.”

    To me it implies that the Nationals have some choice in the matter, but my understanding is that as a free agent, Dunn can sign with whomever he wants and the Nats really have no say. They’ll simply get some draft picks as a result.

    I’m just asking whether my understanding is correct – it may not be. Personally I have mixed feelings about Dunn. This is not a team that scored a lot of runs and losing his bat would leave the Nats with little offense. I like that he wants to play here. But, his defense is just awful.

  5. B-dogg says:

    It is a fair point that Dunn actually wants to play in DC, unlike other high quality talent. But I don’t think there is a line at LaRoche’s door and he is a reasonable option to plug first base for a few years. Some decent starting pitching would sure be nice, but it seems like high quality pitching free agents would be the last folks to sign to a bad team. It is easier for hitters to put up good individual numbers on a bad team than it is for a pitcher.

    My biggest worry for them dumping Dunn is what it does to Zimmerman. A couple years ago when he had no help in the lineup, his production suffered from trying to do too much. Granted he is a few seasons more experienced but he is still a #3 hitter and a true cleanup hitter to protect him has made Dunn a real asset to the Nats.

  6. Ted Leavengood says:

    It was not my intention to imply that Rizzo has a hand in the matter. He DID make the decision to let Dunn walk and to offer arbitration. But I believe I said he is at the mercy of the other teams and where Dunn signs as to what he gets for Dunn, whether two draft picks or one. As to protecting Zimmerman, that is a very valid point. Rizzo is supposedly in on Carlos Pena, the first baseman from Tampa most recently. Personally I believe Adam LaRoche is more dependable with the bat and would protect Zimmerman better. He is as solid in the field as Pena. Supposedly, Rizzo’s positive dealings with Boras–Pena’s agent–will give him an edge there, but frankly I am concerned with his offensive inconsistency and doubt LaRoche would be much more costly.

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