When the clock strikes 2:00 am EDT and jumps back as Daylight Savings Time requires to 1:00 am EST, the Washington Nationals' big middle-of-the-order bat, Adam Dunn, will have been a free agent available for any team league-wide to sign for two hours just an hour into free agency if the Washington Nationals fail to sign the 30-year-old-for-three-more-days first baseman to a new deal that keeps him in D.C. before then. No one expects a deal to get done at this point, though at one time, the Nats' GM Mike Rizzo believed it might. In a March article by MLB.com's Bill Ladson entitled, "Q&A with Mike Rizzo", Mr. Rizzo said that the player's agent and the team had, in his own words, "started to dabble with the talks -- to see if there is a possibility we can get him under control for a longer term," :
" I love Adam. I think he brings a lot to our lineup. I think he brings protection for Ryan. I think he gives us legitimacy in the three-, four- or five-hole. He is a great character guy. He is a great guy in the clubhouse. He is a guy we signed to a two-year deal. At the right price, it makes sense to extend his contract."
The Nats and Adam Dunn's agent Greg Genske have been discussing "the right price" since before the 2010 season even started. The Nationals said at the start of the year that they'd need to see improvement from Dunn defensively at first before they'd consider a long-term deal, and since Dunn was determined to remain in the National League, he told MLB.com's Bill Ladson in another report entitled, "Dunn trying to take next step at first base", that he'd committed himself to stepping up his defensive game to avoid having to give up playing in the field:
"'I've been hearing [about being a DH] since I was 24. I'm still in the National League somehow,' Dunn said. 'That's people's opinion. I really don't care what people think. If I wanted to play in the American League, I would have played in the American League. That's something I'm not interested in doing.'"
When several AL teams were reportedly attempting to trade for Dunn this past July, the slugger told reporters he'd be okay with a trade to the American League since he would be a free agent at the end of the year anyway, which left D.C. Mike Rizzo with no deal he thought provided an adequate return on Dunn since any AL team acquiring him knew he would be a two-month rental:
Mike Rizzo: "The goal was to make a prudent baseball deal...we certainly weren't going to take a step backwards, or do a multi-player, a quantity deal for Adam Dunn. This is a prototypical clean up hitter in the lineup that hits 40 HR's and drives in a 100 runs, and is a great clubhouse presence, and that means a lot to us and our fanbase and if there was a deal to be made we certainly would have made it, we proved that with the difficult trade that we had to make with Matt Capps, but we saw value for value there, and we just didn't see the value in return with Adam Dunn.'"
One of the first questions Mr. Rizzo was asked after the July 31st Non-Waiver Trade Deadline passed was whether or not the Nats now had to sign Dunn for it to be a good move to have not traded him, and the general manager responded that the team was, "going to talk extension with Adam Dunn and his representatives," though they were, "...certainly not going to talk about it with the media." "Adam Dunn is a big part of our ballclub, Mr. Rizzo said, "we've shown that by not trading for lesser value."
The Nats never did manage to sign Adam Dunn to an extension though both sides had come together on the number of years that were acceptable, with the Nats reportedly up from two and Dunn willing to accept three though he wanted four, and when the season officially ended with the San Francisco Giants beating the Texas Rangers in the World Series without a deal in place, there was no reason for Dunn to sign when he could once again search for the best offer on the open market. The best deal he found last time out was from his one-time GM in Cincinnati, Jim Bowden, who was then employed as the Nationals' general manager.
Adam Dunn will now find out if two more years of sustained offensive production put him in any better a place than he was after the 2008 season. Has the move to from left field to first convinced another National League team outside of the nation's capital that Dunn's still an everyday player in the DH-free NL? Are the Nationals moving on or just letting Dunn see that their's is the best offer out there? In spite of reports earlier this week that the Chicago Cubs weren't going to be spending big this offseason, opting for a second-tier target like Nick Johnson instead, Chicago Tribune writer Paul Sullivan wrote this weekend in an article entitled, "First base tops Cubs' offseason priority list", that, "The Cubs are seeking a left-handed power hitter, with Adam Dunn the most prominent candidate."
"Whether the Cubs can accommodate Dunn's salary is another question, and there are concerns about his defense," Mr. Sullivan wrote in the article. Questions and concerns the Nationals share, at least according to New York Newsday sports writer Ken Davidoff (@KenDavidoff) , who wrote on Twitter Friday that one anonymous major league executive, "...sees [the] #Nationals signing Carlos Pena [because] of emphasis on defense and Rizzo's strong relationship with [Pena's agent Scott] Boras."
Washington Post writer Thomas Boswell predicted as much back in mid-August when he wrote in an article entitled, "Nationals encounter risks, rewards of dealing with Scott Boras while working to sign Bryce Harper" which was published right before the Nats and Boras were about to negotiate a deal for the second straight no.1 overall pick by the Nats who was represented by the super agent, that a mutual respect had developed between the people involved over the years:
"Some teams and ownerships are spoken of derisively by Boras, but he almost always has praise for Rizzo, Lerner and the Nats - everyone except team president Stan Kasten, one of his old antagonists, a personage whom he almost never mentions. If, eventually, Kasten leaves the Nats, Boras's influence may increase."
"The grapevine says Boras thinks the Nats would be better off with the good-fielding free agent first baseman Carlos Peña," Mr. Boswell wrote then. Will Boras guide his client to D.C. and push Dunn out of town in the process. Fans in the nation's capital are one step closer to finding out. The Nats have until November 23rd to offer Dunn arbitration and then he has until a week after that Nov. 30th, to accept or reject it. After that the Hot Stove heats up the Winter Meetings take place and everyone will finally know if Nationals' GM Mike Rizzo has proven the baseball world wrong again...or if Dunn is actually done in D.C.