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  1. Because the nats are run by a GM who has no idea what he’s doing. The trade part is literally the only reason why they would keep him, in order to flip him to an AL team for prospects. You would think Dunn would get a little more selfless and recognize his faults and come out and say he wants to DH. Isnt he getting older too, isnt it just time for him to hit full time? Rizzo just looks at last years offensive numbers and forgets about defense, when the Nats would have won 3 more games last year with Ryan Sweeney replacing Dunn in the lineup (Sweeney WAR = 4.2, Dunn’s = 1.3)

    Comment by PL — March 19, 2010 @ 9:18 am

  2. Everybody knows that Dunn is a terrible outfield defender. But I think you are over-emphasizing UZR given the small sample size. 688 innings is less than half a season worth of games at first, and until the end of last year, Dunn only played there sporadically. I expect a lot of good defensive outfielders would have similar struggles if they were suddenly asked to play first. But is it really that hard to imagine that, given some time, a former University of Texas quarterback can learn to play first as well as, say, Prince Fielder? In my view, that’s what the Nationals are predicting as they work on an extension for Dunn.

    Comment by jcj5y — March 19, 2010 @ 9:20 am

  3. Dunn has played 1400 innings at first with a career UZR/150 of -18. Still a small sample size, but being 18 runs worse than the average first baseman is pretty impressive. Looking at first baseman that played a minimum of 500 innings in, he was twice as bad in UZR as the next worse!

    Comment by DavidCEisen — March 19, 2010 @ 9:41 am

  4. I think the simplest explanation is they think Dunn can improve at 1B.

    If he can become merely bad say -5Rs, his value improves a lot.

    Comment by snapper — March 19, 2010 @ 10:15 am

  5. Rather than extending him with the potential of trading, wouldn’t offering him arbitration be better? then they either still get him [for just one year] or get a couple good picks…

    Comment by Eric R — March 19, 2010 @ 10:49 am

  6. “Rizzo just looks at last years offensive numbers and forgets about defense”

    Finally! Someone willing to back me up on the fact that Nyjer Morgan isn’t that great.

    Comment by Big Oil — March 19, 2010 @ 11:09 am

  7. Is it possible that the Nationals are trying to sign Dunn to an extension NOW, based upon his future projected value in the National League, with the intention of then trading him to an American League team and getting more value in return?

    I’ll explain.

    Dunn is clearly worth far less to a National League team than an American League team, due to his defensive liabilities. Thus, he might produce 2.0 WAR per season (or whatever) for an NL team, yet 4.0 WAR per season (or whatever) for an AL team.

    The Nationals could potentially use this to their advantage in negotiations for a contract extension by paying him, based upon the market value for wins, $8m per season (or whatever, for 2.0 WAR), rather than $16m per season (or whatever, for 4.0 WAR).

    With this, the Nationals might then approach an AL team with somewhat of a bargain on the table. Now, you have a player who could potentially be worth 4.0 WAR per season, yet only be under contract for $8m per season.

    Would this not be among the top contracts in all of baseball? Could the Nationals not then use this to receive much more value in return, should they decide to trade Dunn to an AL team?

    Or am I over-thinking this and giving the Nationals credit for far more strategic thought than they have earned?

    Comment by Alex — March 19, 2010 @ 12:15 pm

  8. I think the Marquis and Pudge signings and the talk about extending Dunn show that Rizzo badly wants established players on the Nats and is willing to overpay for them if necessary. At least Dunn is actually tradeable. If he’s on track for another clockwork 38-40 HR season why wouldn’t a team that needs a DH upgrade (White Sox?) be interested?

    Comment by Jeremy — March 19, 2010 @ 12:17 pm

  9. Eh, the problem with that is it assumes that A) Dunn is willing to accept defense being priced into his contract, and B) that he’s unaware of AL teams that wouldn’t care about his defense. Alternatively, AL teams still might not be interested in that contract because of the glut of DH-types on the market in recent years. Bobby Abreu and Johnny Damon had a hard time getting the open-market value of their projected WAR – why would Adam Dunn be any different?

    Comment by Kevin S. — March 19, 2010 @ 12:23 pm

  10. Trade him to who specifically? Most AL teams already have an established DH and have no interest in a guy that can’t play the field effectively. Look how hard its been for a guy like Jermaine Dye to latch on with a team…hell Thome signed as basically a pinch-hitter with the Twins. I admit that Dunn is still a better slugger than either of them but its still a huge limitation for even an AL team to take on for anything other than a short-term rental during a playoff push.

    Comment by NEPP — March 19, 2010 @ 12:24 pm

  11. On building a contender: They’d be better served pocketing the money they’d spend on extending him and using it on the Int’l market and to bust slot during the next two June drafts (where they’ll likely again have high picks and be able to get top talent). That would payoff far more than the prospects they’d get in return for trading him in 2011.

    Comment by NEPP — March 19, 2010 @ 12:27 pm

  12. I generally agree with the post and comments. From a statistacal analysis it makes no sense to keep Dunn. However I think this is a situation where the business realities trump building a contender. There is very little reason to buy a ticket to see the Nats right now. Ryan Zimmerman and, well, ummmm. Dunn is one of the few guys worth the price of admission because for better or worse everyone likes seeing a ball launched 500 feet and there are very few guys who can do that. Dunn is one of them. And as you say above, while he is not an ideal fit and is better suited to DH, technically he’s not hurting his team (37th in WAR not awful). I don’t think you can dismiss these realities when assessing signings.

    Comment by afrosupreme — March 19, 2010 @ 12:33 pm

  13. Very well said. It’s not like Dunn’s presence is blocking any ML-ready youngsters on the Nats, and they don’t seem to be strapped for cash like the current Marlins or Rays of 2001 – 2006. I think the possible effect of Dunn chasing 50 homers would mean more to that franchise in building interest and a fanbase than the few marginal WAR they could get out of a Nick Johnson-type who can field 1B better. Building a true winner would be ideal, but that takes time, and in the meantime maybe Dunn helps them sell a few more tickets and jerseys.

    Comment by Bob — March 19, 2010 @ 12:46 pm

  14. I enjoyed the article, as I do with almost everything I read at this site, but I’m wondering if Dunn’s effect on the line-up, not just his stats, should be factored into his value. Is Ryan Zimmerman as productive as he is without Dunn hitting behind him? Surely pitchers fear Dunn more than they do Willingham, or any other Nat, which forces pitchers to throw to Zim. Dunn protects the lineup a bit, doesn’t he?

    Comment by haverjus — March 19, 2010 @ 12:46 pm

  15. I still disagree with the basic premise of the post, i.e., that Dunn will undoubtedly be a terrible defender at first base over the course of any contract extension he signs. There’s just not enough evidence to draw that conclusion so firmly. Look at Prince Fielder’s UZR/150 since 2006–it has improved significantly with experience. Dunn is not so old (he’s 30) that a physical decline is inevitable in the next 3-4 years. He’s switching to first at about the same age as Lance Berkman, who has been respectable there. The Nats are not being unreasonable to project Dunn as a below-average, but not terrible, first baseman; if they’re right, they may get him at below-market price.

    Comment by jcj5y — March 19, 2010 @ 12:54 pm

  16. I don’t disagree with you, there absolutely problems with this strategy. Foremost among them that it relies upon certain assumptions about the free-agent market, other AL teams’ current and future projections for their DH positions, and Dunn’s (or, more importantly, his agent’s) awareness of both factors and ability to translate them into a deal in Dunn’s best interest.

    Keep in mind that, all else being equal, a move to the AL would probably make the most baseball sense for Dunn. Over the last few years, his offensive performance compares very well to that of the AL top DH’s (albeit he has put up those numbers in the weaker NL), so I have to believe that there are quite a number of teams that could use an upgrade there. Perhaps not all of them are in a position to pay as much as Dunn might want for such an upgrade, which reflects a point that you had also made.

    Essentially though, at its core, all that is less relevant than the following: for Dunn to sign an extension he must believe that he can earn no more in the open market than what the Nationals offer, and the Nationals must believe that they can extract no more overall production for that money that Dunn would provide. There are other factors at play, of course (a guaranteed contract vs an uncertain market, any 1B prospects that the Nationals want to see perform).

    Additionally, there is the marginal win argument and the Nationals’ expected position on the win curve. The Nationals may just decide that the increase in production over replacement value may not be worth the increase cost of that production, even at market value rates, for a team that isn’t expected to contend anyway.

    Comment by Alex — March 19, 2010 @ 2:11 pm

  17. “Protection” is not all it is cracked up to be, as Tango has shown

    The entire point of protecting a batter is to improve his offensive output (wOBA) by forcing the opposing pitcher to pitch to him. And indeed, we saw above that opposing pitchers pitch to protected hitters, something that is evidenced by the fewer walks. However, when the ball is put into play, we see no significant difference between how the two sets of hitters perform. The unprotected hitters have a wOBA of .395 (counting only balls that are hit), compared with .391 for protected hitters

    In short, protecting a star hitter appears to accomplish very little. He indeed gets fewer walks; however, there is no evidence that he gets more hittable pitches, since the pitcher always avoids pitching to a good hitter when the situation would call for an intentional walk.

    Comment by joser — March 19, 2010 @ 2:42 pm

  18. “….the Nats would have won 3 more games last year with Ryan Sweeney replacing Dunn in the lineup (Sweeney WAR = 4.2, Dunn’s = 1.3)”

    Yeah i know its sorta the “thing” to be able to measure everything in numbers on this site, but perhaps Dunn’s presence MAY have contributed to Ryan Zimmerman’s breakout season? Would Zimmerman have broken out with Elijah Dukes, Ryan Sweeney, Jesus Flores, etc… batting behind him? Not likely.

    We are thinking outside the box using UZR as not the whole baseball world has caught on yet, but maybe with Dunn and the Nats its time to think INSIDE the box.

    Comment by Melkmizzle — March 19, 2010 @ 3:11 pm

  19. Anecdotally, it was a pretty wide-spread belief in Washington that Dunn’s defense at first improved once he became a full-timer. The FJB blog noted that most of his negative UZR was racked up before August. The UZR/150 came down the more he plated. This site is not set up to verify the observation, so I do not know how to verify it. If Dunn is as bad as -15 runs (where , then he is still a 2 – 3 win player (-12.5 for position and +20 for replacement value). That’s worth $7.5 – $11 based on this year’s signings. Even on this site, both CHONE and the Fans have him as a 3 WAR projection. Yes, he might be more valuable in the AL, but that does not mean the Nats should not look at him for an extension.

    Comment by JCA — March 19, 2010 @ 4:18 pm

  20. UGH! typos!
    “The UZR/150 came down the more he played. This site is not set up to verify the observation, so I do not know how to verify it. If Dunn is as bad as -15 runs, then he is still a 2 – 3 win player (-12.5 for position and +20 for replacement value). “

    Comment by JCA — March 19, 2010 @ 4:21 pm

  21. It is kind of incredible that as a no-field DH, he’s worth about 67.4 RAR in 08-09. With defense, it’s 25.5 RAR. Playing in the NL has docked Dunn over 4 marginal wins in 2 years.

    He’s well worth 8 figures per year in the AL, in the NL, about half that.

    Comment by JoeR43 — March 19, 2010 @ 6:21 pm

  22. That would be pretty smart. The Nationals aren’t smart. So I think you’re over-thinking this.

    Mike Rizzo seems to genuinely like Dunn as both a player and a person, and he seems to value character way too highly (see: Elijah Dukes).

    However, I think you’re onto something that Dunn would accept less money to play with the Nationals, but for different reasons. He’s said on numerous occasions he does not want to DH, so I think he’d really need to be blown away with an offer from an AL team. That or a guarantee of playing first (which would defeat the purpose of going to the AL).

    Comment by Will — March 20, 2010 @ 1:28 am

  23. No, that’s the second-simplest explanation.

    The simplest, and thus most likely explanation is that the Nationals front office is filled with idiots.

    Comment by OremLK — March 20, 2010 @ 5:53 am

  24. Yea you’d think he would move, yet he does not desire it.

    Comment by PhD Brian — March 21, 2010 @ 3:09 am

  25. I am a Nats fan and have argued on Federal Baseball and other Nats sites against the extention, But Dunn is absolutely loved by most Nats Fans for some reason, so for that alone he will be resigned. On the other hand, if they pay him like a 2 WAR player then its ok.

    Personally, I think Dunn thinks he is HOF worthy and feels he wont get in if he DHs (he has hinted at this in the past). His point is strong at least until Edgar Martiez finally gets in.

    On the flipside, as defensive stats become more widely accepted over the next 10 years, I think Dunn might better his chances by not playing in the field. Defensive stats will matter 10 years from now on how we evaluate players in the common lexicon and it is unlikly Dunn’s numbers will help his case.

    Comment by PhD Brian — March 21, 2010 @ 3:16 am

  26. SO what is more likely?
    Dunn will continue to field at first base as poorly as he did last year, and as ineffectively as he has played the outfield over the past years?
    Or the Dunn will show improvement as a first baseman.

    Clearly he is going to get better. Good enough of an athlete to be an all-state QB. Good enough of an athlete to play a reasonable first base.

    Plus, he’s great from a marketing / ticket sales / fan interest standpoint, and we all know the Nat’s need that.
    He’s widely admired and respected in the clubhouse.

    They don’t have anything down on the farm that could come close to serving as an MLB 1B.

    So why the bashing of the Nats for wanting to re-sign him?

    If Dunn turns out to be a reasonably good first baseman, doesn’t re-signing him look smart?
    And is that so far fetched, that Dunn could actually become a reasonably good 1B?

    Comment by Sunderland — March 21, 2010 @ 8:39 am

  27. Stat-Geeks should leave Scouting to MLB professionals. Dunn has never had the opportunity to play full-time 1B, beginning with Spring Training. Gamble now with an extension, and there is still the option of a later trade to an AL team regardless of how well he plays 1B. If the Nats do not sign him to an extension, and he actually plays decently at 1B this season, his value will sky-rocket and the Nats will surely lose him. I guess it is difficult to see the forest when all you look at are the trees. Watching Dunn at 1B last season, in person at Nats Park, was pleasantly surprising. He “saved” MANY errant throws by Zimmy and Co.

    Comment by sullyzz — March 21, 2010 @ 10:44 am

  28. I’m not convinced that Dunn has much value, even in the AL. Value is tied to what a skill set is worth on the open market. Teams have proven over the last few years that power hitting DH types are not worth much money at all. They are a dime a dozen. Name a player who signed a big contract to DH this year – I can’t think of anyone. So not only would teams not be interested in signing Dunn for the money the Nats are paying, they certainly wouldn’t also give up value in a trade for him.

    As his ‘improvement’ defensively, he played seven years in the majors in the OF and got WORSE, why would he suddenly regain his athleticism to the point where he could show significant improvement at 1B?

    Comment by tarheelcoach — March 21, 2010 @ 1:17 pm

  29. Because chicks dig the long ball

    Comment by jirish — March 21, 2010 @ 2:38 pm

  30. What firstbaseman made the hall of fame based on defense?

    Comment by drunkin — May 14, 2010 @ 7:31 pm

  31. To all those of you who think Dunn’s fielding is just horrible, please note that there are five NL regular first basemen who have lower fielding percentages at this point than Dunn. One of them is Ryan Howard. Antyone want to be idiotic enough to ask the Phillies why they keep Howard around when he’s last in fielding percentage among NL first basemen? They keep him because he contributes big-time in other ways, as does Dunn with his homers, high on base percentage, and his presence hitting behind Ryan Zimmerman. Not coincidentally, RZimm won the NL 3B Silver Slugger award last year for the first time – in his first year hitting ahead of Dunn. He has 8 HRs and a .326 average this year hitting in front of Dunn. And as for Dunn’s fielding, what he doesn’t have in range, he does have in being a huge target for other Nats infielders to throw to, and he does have in his uncanny ability to dig balls out of the dirt. Not coincidentally, RZimm also won his first gold glove last year – throwing to Adam Dunn. So get out of your ivory tower statistics, guys, and come on down to DC. Like Sullyzz above was, be prepared to be pleasantly surprised when you see that Dunn helps the Nats defensively more than he hurts them.

    Comment by west1805 — May 15, 2010 @ 1:48 am

  32. And while you’re in DC, guys, be the first on your block to notice that the Nats now have a really solid front office, a very good manager who has the Nats playing very sound baseball (again, put your statistics on Riggleman aside and just watch him in a game), and are generally movin on up fast. You can tell your friends that you picked all this up – again, not through your statistics, but by actually watching the Nats – before a bunch of pitchers named Strasburg, Wang, Detwiler, Storen, and Jordan Zimmerman arrived and maybe also before a guy named Bryce Harper arrived a little later. Know him?

    Comment by west1805 — May 15, 2010 @ 2:13 am

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