Wire Taps: What Are The Washington Nationals And Adam Dunn Waiting For?

In spite of the fact that DC GM Mike Rizzo said clearly recently to Sirius/XM MLB Network Radio hosts Kevin Kennedy and Jim Duquette on their show "The Power Alley" that the Nats were, "...certainly not going to wait until the season's over," to try to work out a deal with Adam Dunn, the Nats' big middle-of-the-order bat told Washington Post writer Adam Kilgore Saturday in a Nationals Journal post entitled, "Adam Dunn seems headed to free agency", that though he, "...leaves negotiations to his representatives and generally avoids updates from them," as far as he knew, "...nothing is imminent and he is 'assuming' he will end the season without a contract extension from the Nationals." 

In the MLB Network Radio interview the Nats' general manager praised Dunn's on and off field presence on the Nationals' roster and even went so far as to say, "...we're trying to get something done because we think that he's a big part of our future and he makes everybody in that lineup so much better and we're working at it diligently every day." Mr. Rizzo didn't trade Mr. Dunn at the July 31st Non-Waiver Deadline, explaining at the time that, though they entertained all offers as the team had always maintained they would, "...we never got a deal that we thought was equal or greater value to Adam Dunn. We were on the receiving end of the calls, we weren't making the calls, we got a lot of interest in Adam and just didn't see an equal return to what Adam Dunn brings to the ballclub on and off the field."

The reports that Adam Dunn was claimed on waivers were never confirmed by the team at least as far I've seen, though MLB.com's Bill Ladson did note in a blog post entitled, "Dunn happy to remain with Nationals" on August 12th that Dunn had been pulled off some nine days after the initial reports that he had been placed on waivers. At the time, Dunn was quoted by Mr. Ladson saying that though, "...he wants a four-year deal," he was, "willing to listen to a three-year offer," but, "...does not want another two-year deal like the one he signed with the Nationals in February of 2009." That deal, inked by Mr. Rizzo's predecessor, payed the then-29-year-old outfielder $20 million dollars over two years. 

The Nationals and Dunn's reps have reportedly been discussing a long-term deal since this winter. According to SI.com's Jon Heyman's article entitled, "Happier D-Train showing flashes of his old self for Tigers", from 3/24/10, the Nats, "...told Dunn that he needs to turn himself into a serviceable first baseman before they make him an offer befitting a 40-homer man. So he's working hard at it."

Mr. Rizzo, in one of many interviews he's done on Sirius/XM MLB Network Radio recently, told "First Pitch" hosts, former DC GM Jim Bowden and Bowden's co-host Casey Stern, that having watched nearly a full season of Dunn's progress at first, he still believed, "... he's a work in progress,":

"I think he's made strides to become a better defender. He's certainly not at the place defensively that he wants to be or I would like him to be. We see the game going to pitching, speed, defense and athleticism as the way to go. Of course, he doesn't have to be the defender that a light-hitting first baseman does because of the potential that he has with the bat, but he wants to be a better defender, we'd like him to continue to improve his footwork around the base and his instincts around the base, I believe he's going to do so. We're encouraged by the strides he's made, but we're certainly not satisfied as a team or Adam personally."

Before the 2010 campaign, Dunn had started exactly 162 games at first over his 9-year MLB career according to Baseball-Reference.com's Standard Fielding stats, with 23 E's commited as a first baseman and a .985 fld%. Fangraphs.com had Dunn at a (-17.0 UZR/150) over his career at first, with a (-30.8 UZR/150) for the time he'd spent there in the '09 season. (Quick UZR/150 Definition from Fangraphs.com: "The number of runs above or below average a fielder is, per 150 defensive games.") For 2010 so far, Dunn's (-1.3 UZR/150), 8 errors and .993 fld% in 124 games show significant improvements over his career numbers, and he's produced at the plate, posting a .260/.353/.547 slash line (.899 OPS) with 32 doubles and 32 HR's.

Only the OBP's off Dunn's previous standards, but with reports that he'd adjusted his approach at the plate to aim for more contact when he'd once shown what some saw as excessive patience, a drop in OBP might have been expected, and a .196/.299/.500 August hasn't helped Dunn's numbers, though he's traditionally seen a late-season decline in production more than likely due to the amount of games the 6'6''. 285lb slugger plays. 

What are the Nats' options? Allowing him to walk and accepting the draft picks they'd receive in return is appealing to Mr. Rizzo reportedly, if that's what it comes to, and the fact that the Nats signed 25 of their top 26 picks last year and have spent more money on bonuses in the last two drafts than any team in baseball would only seem to encourage the still-building franchise's willingness to accept that compensation, especially given the expected strength of the 2011 Draft class. 

MASNSports.com's Ben Goessling wrote recently, in an article entitled, "Zimmermann, Pena, & Dunn" that, "One source in the organization said the Nationals' braintrust 'loves [the Rays' first baseman Carlos Pena],'" but the 10-year veteran will be 33-years-old next May, and he's playing out the third year of his deal 3-year/$24.125M dollar deal with Tampa Bay this year hitting .211/.338/.433 in 114 games and 393 at bats in which he's collected seventeen fewer doubles than Adam Dunn and eight less HR's though he's a superior defensive first baseman. (5 E, .995 fld%, +0.2 UZR/150 in 2010, -2.3 UZR/150 over the course of his career.) Paul Konerko? Derrek Lee? Adam LaRoche? Any of those names inspiring you? I've yet to find one person who''ll say the Nats' top first base prospect Chris Marrero is ready....I can't believe I'm back to asking the same question I asked back in January 2009, three weeks before he finally signed, "Can Adam Dunn And The Washington Nationals Just Accept Each Other Already?"

• Previous Dunn Discussions: 

• Federal Baseball - bluelineswinger: "What We Learned From the Cliff Lee Deal."

"My stance is known, and it is (of course) that the Nats absolutely have to see what they could get in return for Adam Dunn to make them a more competitive team heading into 2011 and hopefully contend by 2012."

• Federal Baseball - John Quinn - Nationals News: MacDougal is Back Edition!

"The Nats have told Adam Dunn that he won't get a contract extension, no matter his offensive numbers, if he doesn't learn to play first base."

• Washington Nationals: Can Adam Dunn Get It, Uh, Done At First? - Federal Baseball

"There's been a lot of talk in these pages about Adam Dunn playing first all season in 2010, with me wondering whether or not he'll be exposed as a DH-worthy defensive liability while Dunn backers (I'm a fan, but not of his defense), argue that his performance at the end of the '09 season, once Nick Johnson had been dealt away to Florida, is proof enough that the 6'6", 275 lb 30-year-old power-hitter is capable of doing the job on the Nats' defensively-challenged roster...

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