Washington Nationals: Top 5 Stories Of 2009. No. 5...Adam Dunn Signs With DC.

5Adam Dunn Signs With Washington.

Some time in early February, Adam Dunn must have realized that the kind free agent offers he had anticipated just weren't there, at least not from the teams Dunn preferred, though, as SI.com writer Jon Heyman wrote at the time, in an article entitled, "Nationals still waiting on Dunn", the Washington Nationals had turned their attention toward the former Reds' and Diamondbacks' slugger after failing in their attempt to lure prize free agent first baseman Mark Teixeira to DC, and had placed an offer for Dunn "on the table" which had been sitting there for some time. "Dunn could still wind up in Washington," Mr. Heyman noted, "...but the Nationals' offer has sat there so long he's sent a clear message he'd prefer to go elsewhere." 

Eleven days later, Adam Dunn accepted a 2-year/$20 million dollar deal from the Washington Nationals...

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Eleven days later, Adam Dunn accepted a 2-year/$20 million dollar deal to join former Reds' and then-DC GM Jim Bowden in Washington as the Nationals' first truly significant free agent signing. Dunn made little secret of the fact that the market he expected hadn't materialized, as MLB.com's Bill Ladson recounted in an article entitled, "Nats sign Dunn to two-year, $20M deal", where he quoted Dunn from an MLBNetwork interview explaining:

"'The opportunities [as a free agent] weren't exactly what I wanted them to be, but I get a chance and hopefully turn the program around...I think it will be a better feel of accomplishment to help turn the program around than go [to a place] that is established.'"

Of course Dunn had stated previously that his intention was to sign with a contender, and he and his agent did seemingly wait until every other option had dried up before signing with Washington, but he did finally agree to come to DC, however begrudgingly. Washington Post writer Dave Sheinin captured the mood amongst DC's baseball fans and writers perfectly in a Nationals Journal post from the press conference introducing Dunn entitled tellingly, "Dunn: This is where I want to be":

"But regardless of how Dunn's two-year $20 million deal with the Nationals came to pass, or how uncomfortably near it is to Saturday's opening of the team's spring training camp in Viera, Fla., the Nationals treated yesterday's unveiling as exactly what it was: the biggest free-agent signing in the franchise's history, and a major step in their quest for legitimacy."

To his credit, and as all of DC would soon learn, as is his way, Adam Dunn was blunt and told the truth from the beginning, as the Washington Post's Mr. Sheinin quoted the newly-signed slugger explaining his reservations about agreeing to play baseball in the nation's capital:

"'I definitely had doubts' about signing with the Nationals,' Dunn acknowledged. 'When all this first came about, I was saying, "Man, they lost 102 games last year," and this and that. [ellipses] Coming into this offseason, I was sold on playing for a contender, playing for a team that's already proven themselves.'"

...and even more to his credit, this was the last you would hear from Dunn about settling for signing with DC. Adam Dunn went out and did exactly as advertised, and then some, even surprising many with his defense after the Nationals traded Nick Johnson and moved the big slugger to first on a more permanent basis. Dunn's .267 AVG at the end of the season was the highest of his career, as was his .398 OBP, while his SLG (.529)  and OPS (.928) were both slightly above his career averages. Dunn did not reach the 40 HR mark for the sixth-straight season, but his 38 HR's led the team, (and were the most by a Nationals' slugger since Alfonso Soriano hit 46 in 2006), and his 29 doubles were more than he'd hit since 2005, while his 105 RBI's were the second-highest total of his career...

...add to that the fact that Dunn took on a leadership role within the organization, most notably telling Washington Post writer Steve Yanda in an Nationals Journal post entitled, "And The Streak Goes On", during the season-best 8-game win streak the Nationals put together in early August that he actually found it really "frustrating":

"'This is what I expected from day one. That's why it was so frustrating, because I knew that we were capable of playing like this and I wish we would have played this loose and had fun earlier in the year. It's good that we're finally playing the way we're capable of, but again, it's frustrating because I know that we should have been playing like this from day one.'"

I'm sure when Dunn told The Washington Post's Mr. Sheinin about the Nationals losing 102 games in 2008, he wasn't even considering the possibility that the team would surpass that loss total in 2009, but that wasn't for any lack of effort on Adam Dunn's part, and the fans and writers have certainly noticed the difference Dunn has made for the struggling franchise as they attempt to build on the few successes they've had while simultaneously building a fanbase. DC GM Mike Rizzo, (who took over for Dunn's friend Jim Bowden, when the former GM stepped down before the season started), was asked recently in a chat with fans, transcribed by MLB.com at the Nationals' site for an article entitled, "Rizzo chats with fans", whether the Nationals would be attempting to sign Dunn to an extension, and Rizzo responded:

"Rizzo: Adam is a cornerstone member of the Washington Nationals family. His performance on the field and presence in the clubhouse are paramount to our success."

...which is, at the same time, a non-answer and an acknowledgement of Dunn's importance, not only statistically, but on the field and in the clubhouse. Where I think Adam Dunn will prove most important, however, in the long run, is in the eyes of any free agents the Nationals might pursue this offseason or in the future, who look to see how a player's success is rewarded by a franchise when he's willing to take on chance by coming to the NL East's perennial last-place finishers...What do you think Adam Dunn would tell anyone of Mike Rizzo's list of potential targets if they were to ask the left-hander slugger about his first year in DC? Do you think Adam Dunn's going to be interested in building the franchise beyond next season? What is Adam Dunn's future in Washington?

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