MULTIPLE SOURCES CONFIRM DEAL, TEAM EXPECTS PRESS CONFERENCE TOMORROW
According to multiple sources, the Washington Nationals jumped into the deep end of the free agent pool for the first time since the Lerner family took over ownership, signing LF/1B Adam Dunn to a two-year, $20 million contract. The terms are being reported by TomVerducci of SI.com.
Dunn, 29, gives the Nats a presence in their batting lineup not felt since Alfonso Soriano left after the 2006 season via free agency.
For the last five seasons, Dunn has hit over 40 home runs, and driven in over 100 in four of the five. While the knock on Dunn has been his historic strikeout rate and low batting average, his lifetime .381 on-base percentage shows that the big guy knows how not to make outs. He's the perfect example of the "three true outcomes" player: one who hits home runs, walks,or strikes out.
DOES DUNN FIT INTO OUTFIELD LOGJAM OR FIRST BASE?
Dunn has played mostly left field in his eight-year career, with a sprinkling of games at first base. Where he fits into the Nats plans defensively is still a bit of a question mark. Dunn is not the greatest of defenders, but various defensive metrics disagree on just how below average his glove is at either position.
Washington has a glut of outfielders, with Josh Willingham, Lastings Milledge, Elijah Dukes, Austin Kearns, Willie Harris and Wily Mo Pena all on the 40-man roster. They also have youngsters Justin Maxwell, Roger Bernadina, and Leonard Davis--their minor league player of the year--all reporting to camp next week.
In addition, the Nats hope that oft-injured first baseman Nick Johnson will be healthy enough to play this season, adding a second high on-base batter to the middle of the lineup.
Should Johnson be able to play, Dunn should be able to stay in his preferred position of left field, perhaps moving Willingham to right and Dukes to center field to compete with Milledge. Manager Manny Acta will have his hands full during spring training trying to figure his best outfield alignment, but don't be surprised if GM Jim Bowden still has a trade up his sleeve to move an outfielder--or Johnson perhaps.
Last month the Nats were talking with the Oakland A's about a swap of first basemen, with Washington sending Johnson and receiving Daric Barton, a carbon copy of Johnson but seven years younger. But if the A's feel like they can compete this year, they might prefer the veteran Johnson over the untested second-year player.
DEAL GIVES FAN BASE CONFIDENCE IN OWNERSHIP
Regardless of how the playing time shakes out, there's no argument that this deal makes the Nats stronger across the board. And the two-year deal gives some stability to the situation for the Nats, and Dunn the chance at another big pay day in just two seasons.
Just as importantly, it give the fans and season ticket holders confidence that the ownership group is invested in the product on the field. The Nats minor league system has undergone a major re-vamping in the last several seasons, with several of the minor league teams securing division championships.
But the record of the Major League team has dropped each year the Lerners have owned the team, culminating in the 102-loss season last year. The fan base, especially season ticket holders, has eroded this off-season, but this move should signal to fans that the Nats--specifically the ownership group--have finally realized that the folks coming out to brand-new, publicly funded Nationals Park came out to see Major League baseball, and as such are now making steps to provide a Major League experience on the field.