Adam Dunn signed with the Washington Nationals on February 11th 2009 after the Arizona Diamondbacks, (who'd acquired the big left-handed bat from Cincinnati for cash and players to be named later, with infielder Wilkin Castillo and pitchers Dallas Buck and Micah Owings eventually joining the Reds to complete the trade), non-tendered the then-29-year old 40 HR/100 RBI threat following a stretch run that saw Dunn hit .243/.417/.472 with 9 doubles and 8 HR's as a D-Back to finish the 2008 campaign with a .236/.386/.513 slash line, 23 2B's, 40 HR's and 100 RBI's.
The Nationals were publically involved in the pursuit of the top free agent bat on the market that winter, Mark Teixeira, with Washington claiming he was the sort of once in-a-generation talent that they'd actually consider breaking the bank for, and when Teixeira chose to sign with NY, the Nats turned their attention toward Dunn and put the best offer the transitioning outfielder could find on the table, knowing that signing the big middle-of-the-order bat wouldn't cost them the draft pick compensation the rebuilding franchise prized since he hadn't been offered arbitration by Arizona. As Washington Post writer Dave Sheinin wrote at the time, in a Nationals Journal 12/2/08 post entitled, "Why Adam Dunn Just Became Much More Appealing", the D-Backs neglected to offer Dunn arbitration because they, "...fear[ed] Dunn would accept the offer of arbitration and cost them $15 million or more in 2009." The Diamondback's decision, Mr. Sheinin wrote, allowed the Nats to, "...make a better rationalization for shoe-horning him into The Plan -- since he would no longer cost them a precious draft pick."
The Nationals signed Dunn for 2-years/$20M dollars, and with the second year of that deal coming to an end, the Nats now find themselves in the same situation the D-Backs were after the '08 season. Offer Dunn arbitration and the soon-to-be 31-year-old slugger could get a $15M+ one-year deal. If Dunn decides to walk rather than accept arbitration, the Nats will have to compete with any offers he might receive on the open market, or they could allow their big middle-of-the-order bat to leave and accept the compensatory picks, in what the DC GM Mike Rizzo told MASNSports.com's Ben Goessling in a blog post entitled, "Deals for Dunn and Harper?", would be a, "worst-case scenario," but would, "...get [the Nats] two first-round draft picks...And that's very exciting to me. Being a scouting guy and an ex-scout, that's very exciting to me," especially in what is thought to be a fairly deep draft.
The latest word on the talks with Dunn came this weekend from Mr. Rizzo in a pregame interview on MASN's broadcast where the Nats' GM responded to a questions about Dunn from MASN's Phil Wood by saying as they have since before the 2010 season started, that the Nats are, "in conversation with [Dunn's] people," and the Nationals realize, "...we need a thumping first baseman that's going to hit in the four hole for us and we'd like it to be Adam Dunn, and we're in conversations," but as of yet, no deal. Dunn's on record saying he's tired of two-year deals, which makes it unlikely he'd accept arbitration and a one-year deal even if the Nats did offer it to ensure they'd receive compensatory picks.
With 18 games remaining on the schedule, Dunn's hitting .265 with 34 HR's, 91 RBI's and a .906 OPS, but his OBP is down (.360 from a career .381 and .398 in '09) as he's attempted to employ a more liberal approach at the plate. But he's still seen as a Type-A free agent should he hit the market, and the Nats now have to decide if they'd rather have the picks or the bat back on a team that not many in the industry believe will compete any time soon, though the Nationals are on record saying they don't believe competitive days are too far away. Will they try to replace Dunn's production or count on the aging slugger's ability to produce as he has in each of the last six seasons in spite of his advancing age. In Rizzo We Trust? The future is in the Nats' GM's hands...