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Adam Dunn in 2010 = Alfonso Soriano in 2006

Every time I see Matt Garza pitch, and especially when I see him throw a no-hitter, I'm reminded of how he could have been a National. Well, truthfully, he was never all that close to being a National -- but the Nationals did attempt to pry Garza away from the Minnesota Twins at the 2006 trade deadline when Washington was shopping around Alfonso Soriano. The Twins, at the time, refused to give up Garza, but they did offer Kevin Slowey instead. The Nationals passed, and things never got much beyond that.

If you're like me, you've been thinking a lot about Soriano and 2006 these days. The Adam Dunn situation has many parallels to that one. As with Soriano in 2006, Dunn is a pending free agent who probably will not re-sign with the Nationals (at least not if he sticks to his insistence upon a four-year deal). Like the 2006 version of Soriano, Dunn would be a tremendous pickup for a contending team. Soriano combined prodigious power with exceptional speed; Dunn combines prodigious power with exceptional strike-zone awareness. Neither is much of a defensive player.

The Nationals, led by then-GM Jim Bowden, held onto Soriano because they could not get what they wanted in exchange for him. At the time, it felt like a bit of a letdown, because of all the pre-deadline chatter surrounding Soriano. But we all know how the story ended: Soriano played out the season in Washington, then signed with the Cubs in the offseason, which gave the Nationals a pair of compensatory draft picks -- one of which was used to draft Jordan Zimmermann, who could be the team's No. 2 starter in 2011.

There's your threshold for pulling the trigger on a Dunn deal: Would the return for Dunn be better than two premium draft picks? Of course, the picture is complicated this time by the fact the Nationals see themselves as closer to contention in 2011 than they were at this point four years ago. Do they really want to wait five years, as they have with Zimmermann, for those draft picks to turn into something useful?

It's pointless to debate the merits of a Dunn trade without knowing precisely what players are being discussed in return, and typically we don't get a full picture of that until after the deadline. (I didn't learn of the Garza/Slowey talks until weeks after the 2006 deadline.) There are names trickling out in regards to the Dunn talks, but it is at best an incomplete picture. And whatever happens, it could be years before we fully understand whether the Nationals made the correct call with Dunn.

By Dave Sheinin  |  July 28, 2010; 11:19 AM ET
Categories:  Adam Dunn , Jordan Zimmermann , trade deadline  
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Comments

Losing Dunn and only getting draft picks is the worst case scenerio. Anyone drafted with Dunn's picks won't make the team until after Ryan Zimmerman's current deal expires. If Dunn is dealt, we have to get guys that can help the team starting next year and be fixtures on the roster for years to come. The Nats can get the production of Ryan Howard for half the price by extending Dunn. Considering there is no one to take Dunn's spot in the lineup, is doesn't make much sense to lose him for a couple more draft picks that may or may not pan out.

Posted by: sec307 | July 28, 2010 11:53 AM | Report abuse

NFA has a possible scenario with the White Sox that makes sense if any of the perimutions mentioned there happen. Otherwise, extend Dunn.

Sec 204 Row H Seat 7

Posted by: adhardwick | July 28, 2010 11:54 AM | Report abuse

My quick analysis on Dunn. Before this year, I would've been inclined to trade him. His bat's always been great, but his awful fielding nearly canceled it out. So you had a guy who looked better as trade bait at a glance, because it's easier to tell based on basic numbers who's a good hitter than it is to tell who's a good fielder.

It's 2010. The Nats seem to have found a place for him in the field where he's not as much of a liability. He's still below average according to UZR, but having his best season in the field since 2002 when he was a completely different player (he actually stole 19 bases that year). His power numbers this year as measured by SLG and ISO are close to his career bests and way above his career averages. His BABIP indicates that he's been pretty lucky this year. Combine all these things and you can argue that his value right now has never been higher. Which is why I think it's right for Rizzo to be asking for the moon, trying to sell high. Rizzo's not a dummy, he knows that at some point Dunn is going to regress to his mean and maybe below his averages as age becomes a factor. That's why I would be hesitant to give the guy the 4 years he's asking for. In the short term (<=2 years), I think Dunn is the best solution. If it's not possible to do that short of a contract, then trading him is the best way to go.

(What about a front loaded contract? Someone give Dunn a Time Value of Money lesson.)

Posted by: rnkorby | July 28, 2010 11:56 AM | Report abuse

I hope there's a deal here-- don't see how Dunn gets both the money he's asking for ($60M/4yrs) AND an everyday spot in the field.

If he really insists on playing the field, I'd think he has to concede on $$$/years; in that case (esp with some creative structuring/incentives), the Nats ought to be able to get something done. If he insists on the $$$ but is willing to DH, then he's gone.

What should that Nats do in that case? I don't think just a #3-4 starter like Edwin Jackson (as has been discussed) is enough, esp given that they'll have lost a huge chunk of their offense to get him.

Posted by: HHover | July 28, 2010 11:57 AM | Report abuse

A four-year deal? I thought Dunn wanted two. Is he adding years with every passing month that a deal isn't struck?

Posted by: Juan-John1 | July 28, 2010 12:03 PM | Report abuse

why dont we just resign him, theres no cap, we dont resign him willingham will proboly walk, and there goes your team. no reason for a deal not to get done

Posted by: arizonacardinalsfan1 | July 28, 2010 12:07 PM | Report abuse

I find it hard to believe that the four-year deal is the sticking point with Dunn. Any deal could be structured in such way to make him moveable in the fourth year if circumstances warrant it. Barring injury, it is hard to imagine the scenario where Dunn will not be a desirable DH four years from now. But I am certainly not privy to the negotiations.And I understand why it is not in the best interest of the club to sign him this week.

As one who typically looks for the silver lining, I did hold some hope last night that Strasburg's sore arm (and the possibility of shutting hin down earlier) might put some pressure on the FO to keep Dunn (and Willingham).

Posted by: lowcountry | July 28, 2010 12:22 PM | Report abuse

From what I've read, Dunn has always wanted a 4-yr deal (reportly 4/$60 mil). The Nats obviously don't want to give him 4 years or they would have by now. It seems logical that they compromise and do 3/45. $15 mil a year is a bargain for Dunn and three years somewhat minimizes the risk of him breaking down over time. As for Dunn's numbers, I think he's finally turned a corner and is now swinging more freely - the numbers say he's swinging at more pitches away from him and out of the strike zone. His K's are up, his walks are down, but his SLG and total bases are way up. I think this is something he can keep up moving forward due to a change in his approach.

And if you're worried about Willingham wanting to leave in '12, then you should REALLY be worried about Zim leaving after '13. Extending Dunn would go a long way towards convincing Zim to stay in DC for his next contract.

Posted by: sec307 | July 28, 2010 12:23 PM | Report abuse

I think the difference between Soriano and Dunn is that everyone basically knew the Nats wouldn't re-sign Soriano if they didn't trade him. Someone---the Cubs it turned out---was sure to offer him a bad contract and he was sure to take it. So it really was a choice between the trade offer and draft picks. Today, there's a third option: re-sign Dunn. In many ways, its the least risky strategy, especially if the contract is three years instead of four. Despite a lot of published worries about a sudden dropoff in production, I see little evidence that Dunn at 30 will be that different from Dunn at 33.

Posted by: jcj5y | July 28, 2010 12:27 PM | Report abuse

Dunn would not be movable at all in 4th year of his new contract(as he would be a 10 and 5 guy and would have in essence a no trade clause).

tough call quite frankly.

Posted by: stever37 | July 28, 2010 12:28 PM | Report abuse

A four-year deal? I thought Dunn wanted two. Is he adding years with every passing month that a deal isn't struck? Posted by: Juan-John1 | July 28, 2010 12:03 PM

My guess is yes, his contract demands are going up cuz his market value is going up, in $ and years. Lerner will have to pay for his delay. He can no longer get the off-season price, sad to say for his business interests. This happens in real estate, shopping centers, and in MLB. You can't go backwards in time.

Adam says: "It's pointless to debate the merits of a Dunn trade without knowing precisely what players are being discussed in return..." You can't argue with that. However, the franchise is being tested now. Are the Nats forever the have-not franchise that unloads whatever star players it may have on the contenders? Or do they aspire to a contending status themselves, by adding pieces for themselves?

Of course if you get blown away by a deal, you have to do it. But a salary dump won't do at this point, not just for the fans but for teammates too, who wonder if the club will make a commitment to winning.

All this could have been avoided if the Nats had sprung for four years initially with Dunn, as Tom Boswell said they had the chance to do. The price has gone way up since those days.

Posted by: EdDC | July 28, 2010 12:30 PM | Report abuse

As a season ticket holder who has seen Dunn play often I have to say he is a much better player than I thought he would be when they signed him.Dunn defiantly changes the line up and sometimes the out come of the game. That said the the Nationals are not that close to competing regardless of what Stan say. There are too many wholes in the line up and their defense is horrible. If the Nationals can get a everyday pitcher and a starting OF,SS,2nd base or catcher they need to make the trade. Improving the defense and getting rid of two automatic outs in the line up will improve the team more than keeping Dunn. Additionally the 12 million dollar savings should give the nationals room to sign a good free agent next year. Maybe even Dunn.

Posted by: sdrappa | July 28, 2010 12:34 PM | Report abuse

Who knows what the balking point(s) is - #of years, total value, other clauses? Only Dunn's advisors & Rizzo know for sure.
If Dunn is asking for 4years at $60M+/-, it's an under-market bargain that needs to get signed, imo. There are ways to make that contract palitable to both sides (front-loading, performance bonuses, etc).

Posted by: BinM | July 28, 2010 12:35 PM | Report abuse

I would not want to be a Nats pitcher, facing an enormous guy who before the pitch sticks his bat menacingly in the air, at me and at the stands where the ball is going. I think I would rather take up bowling.

Posted by: EdDC | July 28, 2010 12:46 PM | Report abuse

"[I]t could be years before we fully understand whether the Nationals made the correct call with Dunn." Assuming we know what Dunn might have brought within the next few months, this is a mistake. There are two ways to judge a decision:

(1) In terms of what was known at the time.
(2) With 20/20 hindsight years later.

You judge the quality of a decision by (1) and the quality of its outcome by (2). Sometimes luck turns good decisions into bad outcomes and bad decisions into good outcomes. What you want from a GM is someone who makes good decisions because in the long run, luck usually evens out.

Bowden was right not to trade 2 months of Soriano for Slowey, who at the time looked like what he turned out to be: a replacement level pitcher. The Nats already have lots of those. Even if Slowey is a late bloomer and becomes an All-Star, that won't change the fact that it was a good decision.

I really like Dunn. But if 2 months of Dunn can bring back someone who has a good chance to be an above average ML player, the Nats should pull the trigger. Keep in mind that given the Nats' payroll, they should be able to sign a very good player to play 1B in 2011. Hopefully Dunn. But if not, someone else.

Posted by: mab9 | July 28, 2010 12:46 PM | Report abuse

Dunn asking for 4/60M is already a discount from what comparable players are getting and will get this off-season. Asking the guy to take 3/45M is a stretch.

Ryan Howard is signed thorugh 2016 (with a 2017 option year that has a nice $10M buy out for the Phils to pay should they decide to cut ties, $23M if they keep him): $145M (counting the option year as the lesser amount). WHY IN THE WORLD should anyone expect Dunn to take some small fraction of that deal? Tex's deal is even bigger, through 2016, Adrian Gonzalez's deal is going to be well north of $100M, who knows what Pujols will get or Fielder not long down the road.

Dunn is already offering a very solid discount to the Nats but they are afraid to make the deal.

They'lll do a 2006 re-do (where no offer is good enough to move him) and not trade him either and we'll hear all about how the extras picks are sooooo important for building the club down the road, etc.

If that happens -- no trade, no sign of Dunn. The fans should stay away in droves from Nats Park, maybe only showing up to grab the Lerners for some old school tar and feather application.

Posted by: dfh21 | July 28, 2010 12:53 PM | Report abuse

You just don't want to give Dunn, Capps, Hammer etc. away for chips that don't have much of a chance of paying off, so any argument about signing, trading or letting him walk is moot without knowing what the return is. Perfect example is Soriano; just a little difference between Garza and Slowey.

Posted by: SCNatsFan | July 28, 2010 12:53 PM | Report abuse

Trade him. Dunn doesn't even crack the top 15 of first basemen currently in the MLB. Long bomb HRs are great, but there are at least 15 other players who contribute on offense and defense at the same position. People are arguing to keep an average player on a below average team, which makes no sense. You have to upgrade pitching and defense. I can name a few 1B off the top of my head I'd take before Dunn: Teixeira, Youklis, Pujols, Cabrera, Gonzalez, Morneau, Fielder, Howard, Votto... and Harper in a few years.

Rizzo has this in hand. Either you get a good deal or wait for the picks.

Posted by: gbr_huskers | July 28, 2010 1:00 PM | Report abuse

Not taking Slowey for Soriano in 2006 was definately the right move. Slowey has been an adequate #3 for the Twins but Zimmermann is going to be a number two if not an ace.

I would love the Nats to resign Dunn, but if that can't be done this week, then trade him for players, don't wait for the draft choices. A solid pitcher would be great, but I think a position player is even more important. I know Rizzo is on receord as saying a starting pitcher is the greatest need, but if Dunn goes we will still need a 1B, 2B, RF, C, and maybe a SS. (I like Desmond, but 30+ errors per year is not acceptable, 15 would be tolerable).

Posted by: natbiscuits | July 28, 2010 1:07 PM | Report abuse

I can name a few 1B off the top of my head I'd take before Dunn: Teixeira, Youklis, Pujols, Cabrera, Gonzalez, Morneau, Fielder, Howard, Votto... and Harper in a few years.

Posted by: gbr_huskers | July 28, 2010 1:00 PM | Report abuse

Yes, maybe... but, none of these guys are available (maybe Gonzalez next year). You can only have what's available. Name another group of 1Bs who is going to be available that you rather have than Dunn, that's the real exercise.

Posted by: rnkorby | July 28, 2010 1:19 PM | Report abuse

They should have taken the Slowey deal, no doubt. Slowey had been expected to break through to Ace caliber performance, that has not happened (he's 26, still time); but what has happened is that he's been a double-digit winning pitcher in the bigs. Even with some mid level injury issues the kid has had leading to spotty performance and some missed time, how many pitchers for the Nats have won 30+ games from 2007 on?

Posted by: dfh21 | July 28, 2010 1:20 PM | Report abuse

I can name a few 1B off the top of my head I'd take before Dunn: Teixeira, Youklis, Pujols, Cabrera, Gonzalez, Morneau, Fielder, Howard, Votto... and Harper in a few years. Posted by: gbr_huskers | July 28, 2010 1:00 PM |

Good, I'll take Pujols. I would settle for Morneau or Cabrera.

Aside from Harper, how many of those guys do you figure Rizzo can get? How many are available? Will the FAs go to a last place team? Can you get the other guys in trade? Are we talking "ideal" or real?

Posted by: EdDC | July 28, 2010 1:25 PM | Report abuse

In regards to my last post, here's the list of 1B who are having better seasons than Dunn based on WAR:

Morneau
Votto
Cabrera
Gonzalez
Huff
Youkilis
Pujols

All great names, but the Nats would be or have been outbid for all of those guys except maybe Huff. I would take Dunn over Huff and his miraculous season anyway.

Posted by: rnkorby | July 28, 2010 1:26 PM | Report abuse

As poor as the Nats starting pitching has been this year, Strasburg, J. Zimmermann, Marquis, and possibly Livo give us 4/5 of a strong rotation for 2011. A couple of strong pitching prospects in AA or AAA might not crack the rotation until 2012 or 2013 by which time Willingham and possibly Zimmerman would be gone.

If the Nats trade Dunn (which will be a major loss), they need a couple of major league ready position players as our biggest holes are at 2nd, Catcher (no offense to Pudge), and a power hitter to be a contending team in 2011 or 2012. Knowing Ted Lerner, they Nats are being tight with the money and Dunn won't resign during free agency so we'll end up with draft picks.

Posted by: wizfan89 | July 28, 2010 1:30 PM | Report abuse

What if you try to sign Adrian Gonzalez, but if you don't get him, go with Alberto Gonzalez at 1B instead?

Posted by: EdDC | July 28, 2010 1:36 PM | Report abuse

"Every time I see Matt Garza pitch, and especially when I see him throw a no-hitter, I'm reminded of how he could have been a National."

Every time I read a Kilgore gamer full of creepy TMI Strasburg details and see the "Staff writer Dave Sheinin contributed to this report" end credit, I'm reminded of the time I watched the Erin Andrews peephole stalker video.

Posted by: FeelWood | July 28, 2010 1:40 PM | Report abuse

The key difference between Soriano and Dunn is that Dunn wants to stay, will sign a deal at fair market value, and, in my opinion, will play his heart out after he gets the money just as Zim has done.

Soriano had no interest in being here (to the point he was telling ESPN in April that he was only going to be here a year anyway), was playing that season solely for the money, and has never come close to equalling that production.

I suppose you can find a parallel between Mother Teresa and Satan if you look hard enough.

Posted by: raymitten | July 28, 2010 1:46 PM | Report abuse

Its starting to affect Dunn's hitting ... extend Dunn, like Willingham they seem to be more productive in DC than they would likely be elsewhere. Unless you get what Rizzo thinks is value for value then you execute the trade. I still think he will get what he wants for Willingham or Capps than 2 month rental Dunn. Extend the guy and add a clause in the contract that requires extensive winter work to improve his fielding.

Posted by: periculum | July 28, 2010 1:47 PM | Report abuse

Totally agree with those who say four years, $60 million is fair market value for Dunn. And why should we believe he'll have this terrifying drop off, especially in the fourth year? He'll only be 34, not 44. And if you get three good years out of him to go with the two he's already given the Nats, how bad would it be if he drops off at 34?

Again, they have no one to replace him, except maybe Morse, who they won't play now (if they thought he could replace Dunn, shouldn't he be getting more at bats?) or Marrero, who won't be ready to bat in the middle of the order for at least two years (and that's being optimistic). How do you make the team better in the next year or so by trading him? Yes, it was great to get J. Zimm as compensation for losing Soriano after the '06 season, but four years later J. Zimm still isn't an established player. Are we going to wait four years for the payoff for trading Dunn?

Posted by: baltova1 | July 28, 2010 1:56 PM | Report abuse

That's too easy - Both are worshipped by portions of the world population (ducking).
----------------------
I suppose you can find a parallel between Mother Teresa and Satan if you look hard enough.
Posted by: raymitten | July 28, 2010 1:46 PM

Posted by: BinM | July 28, 2010 2:03 PM | Report abuse

The one thing the Nats should not do is trade Dunn for Hudson and then trade Hudson for Jackson -- we've already seen where trying to rebuild your old club gets you (J. Bowden). Keep Dunn -- 40 HR guys don't grow on trees, especially ones who want to play on this team that will be lucky to win 70. And Dunn presents a huge target for Zim, and has reduced Zim's throwing error count. And how come nobody ever mentions that Dunn is 9 months younger than Willingham? And only 9 months older than Morgan?

Posted by: grclarkdc1 | July 28, 2010 2:11 PM | Report abuse

They can trade Dunn and get a MLB starter under team control for some time in exchange for Dunn -- say Sanchez or Bumgarner from SF -- and go in another direction in the off season that makes the fans happy and the club better (e.g., maybe Berkman becomes available if Houston takes the out and he comes on a 1 year deal; Carlos Pena on 2 year deal maybe), go after some other stud like Crawford for the OF or Webb 9coming off injury maybe they get a bargain on a legit Ace) for the rotation, they add a legit 2B. They use the big coins saved from Dunn walking, Guz expiring, etc. and add big pieces.

OR they can ink Dunn and continue to build the club knowing they have a very solid 3-4-5 for 2011 and add pieces from that point.

Taking the picks for Dunn walking is not a viable option. They can't keep the fanbase at bay in perpetuity. They can't have the most exciting young starting pitcher in recent memory and not build a winner around him.

But they can't just take the picks and tell us all how great those players may be in 2017 and have us all pray for Stras and five days of rain for half a decade.

Posted by: dfh21 | July 28, 2010 2:23 PM | Report abuse

Hey Gang-I'm with you, Ed...and Bin, dfh, baltova,,,and several others. Once again, repeat after me:$60 mil over 4 years is a BARGAIN (KC gave Gil "Meh" Meche 55 over 5, OK? And there are lots of examples).
It's the cost of bizz in MLB. And this team has the resources to pay it AND have it turn out to be a bad deal. And extend Hammer. And sign some choice FA's, too. Was it Kev who yesterday came up with the "Lerner Stockholm" syndrome? C'mon, Gangsters. DON'T let the Slows convince you that we're operating in a "Little Sisters of the Poor" environment. I'm not saying don't trade him IF you get "blown away". I'm not saying spend recklessly.But stop trying to get high end tenants in your mall by bringing in Dollar Stores...or leaving most spaces shuttered while you tell us to come spend because SOON it'll be a fabulous experience...and oh yea, one of the prime tenants is leaving because you weren't willing to accept the market price. Jeez....we are in our SIXTH year...and while I do think we're a lot closer to contending than some of you fellow Gangsters....Hey Slows:nothing shows caring like sharing! (Can we call Adam Dunn Barney?)
Go Nats!!!

Posted by: zendo | July 28, 2010 2:30 PM | Report abuse

Here's a thought - give Dunn the 4-year deal he wants. Keep him on the club for another 2 years at least, then if the Nats are not in contention in year 3, trade him at the deadline.

He will only be allowed to veto a trade (10-5 status) in year 4. If the Nats are reluctant to extend beyond 3 years, then trade him after in the 3rd. Finding a trade partner in year 3 might be a bit tougher, due to his salary (prob $15MM/yr). But hopefully, the Nats will be stocked a bit further at the MLB level (and more competitive) that trading for distant prospects won't hurt The Plan at that time.

Posted by: kob76 | July 28, 2010 2:53 PM | Report abuse

I am not necessarily saying the Nats should re-sign Dunn. But I do have to ask at what point do the Nationals stop selling or letting-go their better players for prospects or draft picks in the hopes of getting pieces for the future?

To borrow a famous phrase from Washington's sports past, when is the future now?

Sure, it would be great if the Nats used their two compensatory picks to get a couple of future big-time contributors. But what good would it do the organization if, by the time these future stars made it to the big club, the current core players had already left via trade or free-agency?

Sooner or later the team has to stop the treadmill and actually move forward. Otherwise they're just bailing water from one side of the boat to the other.

Kevin Olson
Manassas, VA

Posted by: noslok | July 28, 2010 2:57 PM | Report abuse

Zimmerman was drafted in the second round in 2007. The compensatory picks were Josh Smoker (7.44 ERA in Hagerstown) and Michael Burgess (.262 batting average in Harrisburg. Keep Dunn.

Posted by: newbridge | July 28, 2010 3:44 PM | Report abuse

Nats need to keep Dunn, Willingham, Zim and the rest of the core players (players that other teams truly want) together for a good 3-4 years, and add to them.

Fans are only so patient and The Plan needs to come into fruition within the next 2-3 years (ie - make the playoffs). If the Nats continue to tread water and miss playoffs year after year for the foreseeable future, then fans will lose whatever interest they currently have and move on to other activities.

DC is a major market, I hope the Lerners don't treat the Nats like the Marlins. However, even the Marlins spent a ton on free agents for a year, won a World Series, then fire sale at the deadline stockpling prospects on the verge of Majors, win Series again, trade players, etc.

The Nats need to win 2 World Series before consistently trading away players to create the next wave of almost ready prospects. Plus, the Nats have a better scouting department than Florida, so Nats would be leg up on them, pulling the same strategy.

Posted by: kob76 | July 28, 2010 3:53 PM | Report abuse

But stop trying to get high end tenants in your mall by bringing in Dollar Stores...Posted by: zendo | July 28, 2010 2:30 PM |

'Nuf said.

Posted by: EdDC | July 28, 2010 4:04 PM | Report abuse

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