A Dunn deal
By Ryan Korby
If the Nationals choose not to re-sign Adam Dunn, the team should raise a white flag in front of the gate in centerfield. Failing to sign Dunn would be a clear signal that the Nationals are choosing to not be competitive in 2011.
Fan bases understand that team management needs to pick its spots, sometimes rebuilding to field a championship team down the road. Nats fans are being told they’ll be competitive soon, a repetitive phrase the past few years. If the team is so close, why is it eager to unceremoniously drop one of its most productive players?
The names of possible replacements for Dunn are disrespectful to him and the intelligence of the fan base. The thinking goes that the Nats can get a better defensive first baseman without giving up much at the plate, all for a discount on Dunn’s price tag. Sounds great, but it’s not possible. The two names that supposedly fit that description are Tampa Bay’s Carlos Pena and Atlanta’s Derrek Lee. Both have Gold Gloves and Silver Slugger awards to their credit, facts that would be used to console fans dealing with the loss of their beloved Dunn-key. Either player would be a significant downgrade from Dunn.
Pena is two years older than Dunn and that’s about the only statistical category in which he tops the Nationals first basemen. Much has been made about Dunn’s poor defense, an area where Pena would supposedly be a vast improvement. Looking at one widely used statistical measure of defense, Ultimate Zone Rating, shows barely a difference between the two. According to fangraphs.com, Pena’s UZR is -1.7, a shade above Dunn’s -1.9. A zero means your defense is neither saving the team runs nor costing them, so they’re both below average -- not quite the upgrade that the Nats crave. Part of Dunn’s value is his consistency at the plate. Mark him down for 40 home runs and 100 walks every year. If you love Dunn’s consistency, then Pena’s volatility will drive you nuts. He hit 27 home runs for the Tigers in 2004. Spent nearly all of 2006 in AAA, then hit a career high 46 homers in 2007. This year, his batting average is .202, 33 points lower than the 2005 season that doomed him to spend a year mid-career in the minors.
Derrek Lee would’ve been a nice replacement five years ago, but he’s 35 now and has an OPS of .744, his lowest since last decade. He’s clearly on the downside of his career.
Meanwhile, Dunn, has an OPS of .910 and a slugging percentage higher than his career average (.549 vs. .523). There’s nothing there to indicate that Dunn is on the downside and he could be the bridge to when the Nats think they’ll be a playoff-caliber team. It would also be a sign that the Nationals are willing to compete on a year in, year out basis. No fan likes to feel like their team is not trying to be competitive. Those types of feelings may be stronger than ever in the Nationals’ short history if a Dunn deal doesn’t get done.
Box Seats blogger
September 15, 2010; 1:56 PM ET
Categories: Nationals , Ryan Korby | Tags: Nationals, Ryan Korby
Save & Share: Previous: Fw: DC United vs. Toronto FC Player Rankings
Next: Five ugly truths about the Caps
Posted by: mjwies11 | September 15, 2010 2:09 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Poopy_McPoop | September 15, 2010 2:29 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: FeelWood | September 15, 2010 3:03 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: forever211 | September 17, 2010 5:16 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: altosax2525 | September 17, 2010 5:56 PM | Report abuse