Former National Adam Dunn played his last game this past Sunday with the Oakland A's. While he was available off the bench in Tuesday's AL Wildcard game, he never got a plate appearance. The A's lost 9-8, ending their season and, presumably, Dunn's career. Dunn, who had told the media earlier this season that he planned to retire at year's end, reiterated after the game that this was probably the end of his playing career. On Wednesday, he tweeted out to his fans....
Well boys and girls it was a hellava time! I truly thank all you fans! Y'all made it worth playing. Thank You!!#phase2begins— adam dunn (@adamdunn_44) October 1, 2014
Dunn will end his fourteen year career with a .237 batting average, a .364 on-base percentage, a .490 slugging percentage, and 462 home runs. Dunn was the definition of a Three True Outcomes player. He walked in 15.8% of his plate appearances, struck out in 28.6% of them, and homered 5.5% of the time. He'll finish with 8,328 career plate appearances in 2,001 games... none of which came in the postseason.
A two sport athlete in high school, Dunn was actually recruited by the University of Texas to play Quarterback. He chose baseball, signing with the Cincinnati Reds after being selected in the second round in the 1998 draft. Coming up through the Reds system, Dunn was more than just a power hitter. He actually hit .334/.444/.671 between AA and AAA in his final minor league season and was even a threat on the basepaths early in his career. Dunn was actually successful on 57 of his 76 stolen base attempts in his first eight MLB seasons between the Reds and Diamondbacks.
Upon reaching the majors in 2001, Dunn would go on to give the Reds more than seven and a half terrific seasons, batting .247/.380/.520 with 270 home runs. During his tenure in Cincinnati, the Reds failed to reach the postseason... in fact, they finished no better than 80-82 while Dunn was on the squad. He was traded in a waiver deal to the Arizona Diamondbacks in August of 2008. After hitting 32 homers with the Reds that season, Dunn would end up adding 8 more for the Diamondbacks to finish with exactly 40 home runs (for the fourth straight season) and 100 RBI. Unfortunately, Arizona would fall two games shy of reaching the playoffs that season as well. Dunn was still waiting for his first postseason opportunity.
Dunn's signing with the Nats in 2009
From 2005 through 2008, the Washington Nationals operated in a similar method to their predecessors in Montreal. Their biggest free agent acquisitions in the early years were Cristian Guzman, Vinny Castilla, Dmitri Young, and Paul Lo Duca. All of these players were guys who GM Jim Bowden was able to get on the cheap for one reason or another. Castilla, Young, and Lo Duca were nearing the end of their careers. Guzman was an average defensive shortstop who offered little power and speed with an allergy to walks. Guzman's 4 year, $16.8 million deal was the largest free agent contract that the Nationals had ever signed.
During the 2008-09 offseason, the Nationals started to try and flex their financial muscle a bit more. They were reported to be involved in talks with the most sought-after free agent position player on the market (Mark Teixeira) right up until the moment when Teixeira signed an 8 year, $180 million contract with the New York Yankees. A month and a half later, the Nationals signed Dunn to a 2 year, $20 million contract that became the richest free agent deal in franchise history and started to change the baseball culture in D.C.
At the time of the deal, the Nationals lacked a second middle of the order bat to complement franchise cornerstone Ryan Zimmerman. The Nats had hit just 117 home runs and scored just 641 runs in 2008. Both figures ranked 28th in the majors. No Nationals player had hit more than 14 homers (Zimmerman and Lastings Milledge) or driven in more than 61 runs (Milledge) in 2008 as the Nats finished an MLB worst 59-102. For a team that was certainly in need of a power presence in the middle of the order, Dunn seemed an ideal fit.
Dunn certainly did have some warts....