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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.

By Box Seats blogger  |  September 15, 2010; 1:56 PM ET
Categories:  Nationals , Ryan Korby  | Tags: Nationals, Ryan Korby  
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Next: Five ugly truths about the Caps

Comments

Agreed! The only faith I have in the Lerner's is their cheapness.

Posted by: mjwies11 | September 15, 2010 2:09 PM | Report abuse

I would really really really love to see Peter Angelos go out and sign Dunn. If for nothing more than to just stick it to the Natinals and their fans.

Plus it would be so funny to make all those Natinal, MASN-paying fans actually partly be paying Dunn to play for the Orioles.

Posted by: Poopy_McPoop | September 15, 2010 2:29 PM | Report abuse

Hey, you know you don't have to wait the week it takes the paper copy of the Post to make it up to New Jersey before you rip off and rehash Boswell's last column. They're available online, even before they go to print.

Just a helpful hint there, since I know it must be challenging trying to keep current on the Nats all the way up there in NJ. Goodness knows, with the sad state of the Post that's a hard enough job even in DC!

Posted by: FeelWood | September 15, 2010 3:03 PM | Report abuse

Hey Poopy learn how to spell Nationals and keep dreaming if you think Dunn is going to sign to D.H for the O's

Posted by: forever211 | September 17, 2010 5:16 AM | Report abuse

f211, in case you didn't realize it (and maybe you did but were too proud to let on) Poopy was making a joke based on the unfortunately-misspelled Nats jerseys of a year ago or so.

I would certainly prefer the Donkey to remain here, but I think him signing with Baltimore would hardly be the least likely scenario to transpire if the Nats do not retain him. He'd probably play first base, at least in a part-time basis, for a few years, then transition to full-time DH as he got into his mid-thirties.

Posted by: altosax2525 | September 17, 2010 5:56 PM | Report abuse

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