There is a pleasure derived from watching Adam Dunn swing a bat. He is a big lumbering mountain of humanity. He is someone that has stepped out of the pages of folk tales, a mythic hero like Paul Bunyan or Hercules. He is strong, fierce, determined to give it his all in every plate appearance. There is no beauty or poetry in the way Adam Dunn plays the game of baseball just like there is no beauty in watching a lumberjack fell a tree. It is pure force and power. His mighty swings can crush the soul of the pitcher and his epic strikeouts leave his own fans wondering what might have been. It is just a known that if his bat made contact that ball wouldn’t be coming back.
The question now surrounding Adam Dunn and the Washington Nationals is what to do. Adam Dunn is a force at the plate and in the clubhouse. He is a big goofy likeable guy to the players on his team, and he is a feared leviathan to opposing pitchers. The problem is one that baseball teams face often, and whatever the answer I for one hope it involves Mike Rizzo being smarter than me.
Last night watching Adam Dunn crush homer after home and break the heart of San Diego pitching brought a tear to my eye. I like watching Adam Dunn play the game of baseball. He has his issues. He isn’t very sharp when it comes to situational hitting. He approaches every situation with one goal: smash the baseball into the farthest reaches of the heavens. His goal seems to be to knock Artemis from the sky no matter what the game situation is. This leads to strikeouts with a runner on third and less than two outs where a long fly ball or just a ball in play would score a run. Adam Dunn isn’t that type of player though. His approach is to kill baseballs.
Adam Dunn isn’t a complete hitter, but he is a consistent hitter. He has had six straight seasons with forty are near forty homers (he fell short of the mark last season with 38 homers). This season he ranks 7th among first baseman with a .939 OPS ahead of such names as Ryan Howard and Prince Fielder. The only two NL first baseman he is behind are Joey Votto and Albert Pujols. Adam Dunn for his career has put up a slash line of .251/.382/.523. Those are pretty decent numbers for an offensive player. People can bring up defense, but first base is an offensive position and on the scale of defensive importance it might rank dead last.
It simply cannot be argued that Adam Dunn is not a productive major leaguer. The issue is what can Adam Dunn be signed for, and what can he be traded for. I would bet that if you asked a GM to tell you what kind of deadline partners they dream of the answer would be a team in the White Sox position. After an altercation between GM Kenny Williams and manager Ozzie Gullien it was presumed that Williams might be on the hot seat. Then the White Sox got hot and found themselves right back in a division race. The problem is the Twins might add Cliff Lee, and the Tigers have the AL frontrunner for MVP in Miguel Cabrera. The fact is the White Sox are catching neither team. However the White Sox think they can catch both teams. All they need is a little power, and they are looking for Adam Dunn to provide it.
The information we know so far is that the Nationals have supposedly asked for either Gordon Beckham or Carlos Quentin. I think it is more likely that the source mistook his conjunctions and the Nationals asked for Quentin and Beckham. Beckham after having an excellent rookie season is in what is either a sophomore slump or gigantic downturn from which he will never return. Carlos Quentin is a decent right fielder that is just starting to find his power stroke. Getting both these players would fill two needs for the Nationals. Another option would be to enquire into the availability of recently called up prospect Viciedo to be paired with either Quentin or Beckham. This would allow the Nationals to fill the hole left by trading Adam Dunn with a cheaper and younger alternative to Adam Dunn allowing them to save money for a possible run at Cliff Lee in the offseason.
The other alternative is to keep Adam Dunn and resign him. Dunn’s value is now in question after the Phillies signed Ryan Howard to a ridiculous contract. Reports on Twitter last week from Buster Olney were that four years and $48 million should be enough to get Adam Dunn signed. If these numbers are to be believed then a deal is most likely eminent.
There is no one sure path to contention. The Nationals could resign Adam Dunn only to watch him blow out a knee and never play again. Dunn could be traded and help the White Sox make the playoffs resign with them and be the second coming of Frank Thomas. The only sure thing about the future is that it is unsure. Neither option that the Nationals now face is the correct option. Both options could be a path to contention, and whatever happens hopefully turns out to be the best decision for the future of the ball club.