The title of this post could easily refer to the three home runs that Adam Dunn blasted in Wednesday’s nail-biter victory over the Padres. But it doesn’t. While Dunn’s three long balls yesterday are the perfect example of how much he means to the Nationals team, there were plenty of reasons to ink to him to an extension even before he hit them.
Just ahead of the July 31st trade deadline, the Adam Dunn contract situation has quickly become one of the hottest MLB topics. Trade rumors are flying, but Dunn is making it no secret that he doesn’t want to be traded, especially to an AL squad like the White Sox (one team at the center of some of the trade chatter) that’s just looking for a DH. He wants to be a National.
And in truth, he should stay a National. Here are three reasons why Rizzo, Kasten, and Lerner should re-sign Adam Dunn:
- He’s been an outstanding slugger. It’s been said that the two hardest players to find in the major leagues are top-of-the-rotation pitchers and middle-of-the-order power hitters. Dunn is the epitome of a power hitter. In his 1 ½ seasons with the Nationals, Dunn has jacked 58 balls into the stands and batted in 159 baserunners. To put that in perspective, over those 1 ½ years, Washington has scored 1060 runs (710 in ’09, 350 so far in ’10). Adam Dunn has batted in 15% of those runs. He also leads the league in extra-base hits this year. The Nationals would have a hard time scoring without him.
- He’s improved defensively. His play at first base this year has actually been pretty good. Of his 706 defensive chances, Dunn has recorded 646 outs himself, assisted in 56 more, and only committed 4 errors. For comparison, that’s half of the 8 errors that 2010 All-Star first baseman Ryan Howard has made this year. Instead of a fielding liability, Adam Dunn has been one of the bright spots in an otherwise poor defense.
- Dunn helps his teammates perform better. Without Dunn, for example, Ryan Zimmerman’s career will decline. Not to take anything away from the stellar third baseman, but it’s not a coincidence that he finally hit 30+ homers in 2009: it was his first season of batting in front of Dunn. Batting in front of a slugger like Dunn allows hitters like Zimmerman to see better pitches to hit. The result is better offense.
The thing is, if the Nationals do decide to re-sign their cleanup hitter, it will likely come at a high price. Contracts such as the one the Phillies’ bestowed upon Ryan Howard are being held up as the standard, and while Dunn is certainly not worth that much (no Series ring and no postseason experience takes care of that), he knows what he’s worth to the Nationals organization and he’ll likely want a multi-year deal with a yearly salary above the $12 million he’s making in 2010. Think more along the lines of the four-year, $66 million contract that Jason Bay signed with the Mets recently. But even that may be too pricey for the more thrifty-minded Nationals brass.
No matter what, the bottom line is this: Dunn is too valuable to deal. To remove him from this Nationals team would deal a major setback to the team’s aspirations to one day contend for a championship. If it takes a $60 million multi-year deal, then the money should paid. There is no good reason why Dunn shouldn’t be re-signed.