Adam Dunn: What Now?

So the trade deadline came and went this past weekend, and in that time Adam Dunn remained a Washington National. The discussion about whether or not this move in and of itself was wise has been had at length, with most people comparing it to when the Nats didn’t trade Alfonso Soriano during the 2006 season. With Soriano, this move seems to have worked out. Washington used the draft picks from the Cubs, who signed Soriano to a long-term deal, to select pitchers Josh Smoker and Jordan Zimmerman. Zimmerman, who is coming off an injury that has prevented him from pitching thus far in 2010, was great in his rookie ’09 season with a 3.39 xFIP in ~91 innings. At twenty-one years old, Josh Smoker has stagnated with a rough season in A-ball. Still, that’s probably around what you’d expect to get from a few months of Soriano at the trade deadline.

However, the results don’t justify the process, and Adam Dunn isn’t Alfonso Soriano. The trade market was hugely underwhelming this year, and Dunn seemed to be the sexiest name on the block. Our own Matt Klaassen looked at Dunn’s value a few weeks ago:

ZiPS Rest-of-Season projections see Dunn as about a +18 hitter over the remainder of the season; let’s call him 2 WAR overall for the rest of 2010. He is probably owed between five and six million dollars for the rest of his contract, so unless Washington eats a substantial portion of his contract, there’s probably only three million dollars worth of projected surplus here — not bad, but probably not worth much more than a decent “C” prospect or two with some upside. However, because Dunn will likely be a Type A free agent in the offseason, draft pick compensation for the team offering him arbitration (assuming he turns it down) bumps the total projected surplus up to around nine million dollars, which means “B” prospects (plus filler) should definitely be in play.

According to Mike Rizzo, the offers for Dunn were just entirely below what they perceived his value to be. So there are a few outcomes that could come out of Washington’s passivity:

1) Dunn gets through waivers and gets traded to a contender (most likely San Francisco)

This one is possible, and Buster Olney thinks it can happen, but why would Mike Rizzo limit his trading pool, essentially lowering his expected returned value, by doing this? Also, the Nationals seemed to have made a strong PR move by keeping their franchise position player, making a potential waiver deal more unlikely.

2) The Nationals offer Dunn arbitration and he accepts it

This one would be bad. Baseball arbitrators like homers, RBI, and hometown guys a lot more than they like WAR, positional scarcity, or anything else of the ilk. Dunn could be looking at a big payday if he goes to arbitration, and Washington would probably be looking at getting a negative ROI via the contract.

3) The Nationals offer Dunn arbitration and he rejects it, signing elsewhere

This seems to be what the Nationals are hoping for (again similar to the Soriano situation). With Strasburg and Bryce Harper, the Nats are poised to build a strong team in the near future, and good prospects can either surround those guys later on or become trade bait for MLB-ready players. Still, a late first round draft pick can fizzle out before you can say “Harrisburg.”

4) The Nationals re-sign Dunn either during the rest of the season or during the offseason

If this happens during the latter timeframe then the Nats will be competing with the likes of the Yankees and Red Sox, ballclubs with much bigger payrolls. If it happens during the season, then Washington is probably overpaying considering people have said Dunn will not give a home discount and wants to test the free agent waters.

Mike Rizzo made a strong stand for the Nationals franchise by not trading Adam Dunn. However, the question still remains if Washington is better off for it.



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Pat Andriola is an Analyst at Bloomberg Sports who formerly worked in Major League Baseball's Labor Relations Department. You can contact him at Patrick.Andriola@tufts.edu or follow him on Twitter @tuftspat


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