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Just Get It Dunn

Dave's got the Burrell signing pegged perfectly. This deal, at a sensible price, means that the Nationals can afford Adam Dunn. And, if necessary, they can probaby still pay the "Loser's Premium" that a 102-loss team often has to shell out to grab a free agent.

The Rays may have gotten a bit by a Winner's Discount in signing Burrell for $16-million for two years. But the market has, nonetheless, been set right where the Nats should want it.

Several points are of interest when we try to figure out how much Dunn is worth in the current (suddenly deflated) market for proven sluggers in their prime who are durable, walk a lot, only hit near .250, strike out a ton, have a solid attitude and play poor defense at a corner outfield spot.

First, Dunn, 29, and Burrell, 32, who just signed for $16-million for two years with the Rays, are as statistically identical as two players can be.

Over the last nine years starting at age 23 (including a few games at AAA in '00 to give him full credit for durability), Burrell has averaged 150 games, 520 ab, 28 hrs, 95 RBI, 91 walks, 145 Ks, .257 average, .367 on-base % and .485 slugging average.

Over the last seven year starting at age 22, Dunn has averaged 152 games, 518 at bats, 37 hrs, 90 rbi, 108 walks, 169 K's, .247 average, .367 on-base % and .518 slugging avg.

Last season Burrell earned $14,250,000 in Philly, Dunn $13,000,000 in Cincy.

Dunn has a few edges. He's hit 40 homers the last five years. That's worth some box office. He's three years young. But Burrell has proved he can hit for a contender and survive in a tough town where expectations have always been high as a No. 1 overall draft pick.

Milton Bradley, who just signed with the Cubs for $30-million for three years, is a tricky comparable to Burrell and Dunn. Contemporary stats, like OPS, say Bradley has been a somewhat better offensive player over the last six years than either and he can play centerfield, also a big plus. But Bradley's got plenty of baggage and (a bigger worry), has missed lots of games in his career, averaging only 357 abs the last six seasons.

At any rate, if Burrell is worth $16-million for two years and the 30-year-old Bradley gets $30-million for three years, then the Nats can afford Dunn. At "today's prices," and considering Dunn's good health and consistency, as well as the possibilty that he mght switch to first base if needed, it might be wise to accomodate Dunn on length of contract if that will close the deal.

To those who may nags at Dunn's (very real) faws, just a reminder from previous posts and chats: the five players whose careers most resemble Dunn at the same age are Darryl Strawberry, Jose Canseco, Harmon Killebrew, Rocky Colavito and Reggie Jackson. This guy is Frank Howard __but better. You want him for lots of reasons __including credibility with fans and future potential free agents, as well as well-established baseball value.

In light of the Burrell (andBradley) contracts, which establish a sane market for such players, as well as the Nats great need for a LH power bat, only one thing is left to be said.

Yes...just get it Dunn.

By Thomas Boswell  |  January 6, 2009; 2:53 PM ET
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I couldn't agree more. Signing Dunn at a plausible price seems the logical destination for this off-season. There probably never was a realistic chance of signing Texeira, so the Nats good effort there simply will not satisfy fans dying to see a competititve team.

Posted by: petercapitolhill | January 6, 2009 4:11 PM | Report abuse

Boz - if you check, you'll see the argument against the Nats signing Dunn. If you view a Dunn signing as somehow compromising the teams ability to build through the draft, or to play high potential young players, as the author suggests, then you should avoid Dunn. I disagree with that view.

First, Dunn is not a compensation FA because he was not offered arbitration. Signing him does not interfere with our ability to draft, unless the Nats rob the development budget to pay for the MLB team.

Second, I see a signing as opening up trade possibilities, rather than creating more of a log jam. He does not have Nick's glove, but he would replace the OBP skills and upgrade the power. Nick becomes tradeable if healthy, and, if not, then Dunn is a good replacement. It also opens the possibility of moving Willingham, say to the AL, to a team needing a righty bat at CI or OF (e.g., Boston, perhaps Seattle, and maybe a few others). Nick for a middle reliever thickens the bullpen, which would be useful if we just go with Cabrera and kids in the rotation. Willingham for high A middle infield prospects might be doable, too. With a trade, this does not take PT from Elijah and Lastings, which was another concern of Fangraphs. And, were there a blow away offer (i.e., Peavy) where Lastings was a necessary component, we could move him rather than Willingham.

Third, a short-term contract (2 years plus an option) is now more likely to be accepted after Burrell and Giambi than before. He'll want to hit the market again at 31 / 32, when the economy MAY be back. A short term contract is in the Nats interest as Marrero or an 1B drafted in this year's draft is most likely not ready to play full time until 2d half of 2010 at the earliest (when Dunn could be sent for more prospects).

In short, Dunn fits with team building and the plan, rather than interfering with it.

Posted by: jca-CrystalCity | January 6, 2009 4:41 PM | Report abuse

Have we gotten any indication on if the FO views Dunn as a LFer or a 1Bman or both?

I love the idea of Dunn and NJ both in the order (even for just 50 games) with Dukes, Zim.

If we do sign Dunn and play him at LF it makes the defensive line-up interesting...Dukes and Milledge are going to compete for the CF slot, if Milledge wins then Dukes plays RF. If Dukes win then can Willingham play RF or do we play Kearns and have either Milledge or Willingham coming off the bench (or starting in LF if/when NJ goes down.

Anyway I love the look of this lineup;

1. Guzman (SS)
2. Dukes (RF)
3. Zimmerman (3B)
4. Dunn (LF)
5. Johnson (1B)
6. Milledge (CF)
7. Flores (CA)
8. Hernandez/Harris (2B)

that defensive outfield would be a headache, but that is as close to a MLB line-up as we've had in Washington...

Posted by: estuartj | January 6, 2009 5:08 PM | Report abuse

If the market has created a buying opportunity, why not lock in Dunn for the long run at today's (depressed) prices? 4x10 or 5x10 takes him only to his early 30s, and is a bargain for someone with his power, production and consistency. And the Nats can keep him motivated with production-oriented incentives.

Posted by: AshburnVA | January 6, 2009 10:12 PM | Report abuse

If we sign Dunn, I hereby promise to never nags at his faws.

Posted by: NatsNut | January 6, 2009 11:24 PM | Report abuse

1. By "contemporary," do you mean "at the same time as" or do you mean "present-day"? I'm really tired of seeing that word abused.

2. As my own reader(s) are wearily aware by now, I am a serious Dunn promoter. And it would be a serious stretch to assert that Dunn is markedly better at the present time than Howard was at a comparable point in his career. You could say they are roughly comparable based on leveled all-time EqA (see

But it must be admitted that Howard had a sensational age-31 breakout that Dunn might or might not enjoy. Not to bring that into the picture is a little careless, and sets fans up for a needless disappointment, since Dunn can contribute even if doesn't match Hondo's early-thirties exploits.

Let's be just a little more thoughtful about it, huh?

Posted by: Hendo1 | January 7, 2009 9:23 AM | Report abuse

Nice article and great points, Bos. But you haven't told us why a deal has yet to be made for Dunn?
Why haven't the Nats pulled the trigger? What is the hold-up now that Texiera is a Yankee?

Posted by: PhilliesPhan | January 7, 2009 3:12 PM | Report abuse

The ability of Dunn to hit for average as Frank Howard did after he left Los Angeles is not there, so he is not the same player offensively. But he is worth signing. And the reason he has not signed is that we are the last option for everyone. Dunn still has interested suitors in Los Angeles among others. The 162-loss premium may mean that we have to wait until the top ten-twenty free agents are gone to pick among the leavings.

Posted by: Juliasdad | January 8, 2009 2:21 PM | Report abuse

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