Getting Nothing Dunn

Today is deadline day, and as Chris Needham points out so well, the Nationals have been quiet. Too quiet.

Apparently the Nats are so loaded with talent and potential for the coming years that they don’t need to make a change. At least that’s how you could read it considering all the moves they haven’t made and how two-thirds of the league’s players have seemingly changed hands.

The Nationals are on their way to losing well over 100 games this season and even the most die-hard idealist isn’t expecting them contend anytime soon. Their attendance is one of the worst in baseball despite their nifty new facilities. Let’s face it; the team may as well be back in Canada for all Washington fans care at the moment. They have one thing in the world to look forward to as fans: Signing Stephen Strasburg. So why are the Nats not in full blown fire-sale mode, a la Pittsburgh? They have some assets.

Needham pointed out a few, including Nick Johnson and Josh Willingham. Johnson is healthy this season and still gets on base at a high clip. ZiPS projects Johnson to produce a robust .380 wOBA the rest of the season. He’s going to be a Type B free agent, meaning you can buy Nick Johnson and he comes with the added bonus of a draft pick. Not much not to like.

Josh Willingham is quietly having a fantastic season, putting together a .300/.410/.586 line. Bear in mind his batting average is nearly thirty points higher than his career standard, but Willingham has been a consistently productive hitter, with a career .372 wOBA. He picked a great time to have a career year, as he’ll be arbitration eligible for the second time this off-season, making him due for a raise.

But what about Adam Dunn? Why is no one talking about him? The Prophet of the Three True Outcomes Cult is putting together yet another strong offensive season, posting a .407 wOBA. Granted, he’s been downright grisly in left field (-12) UZR, but there has to be a contending team out there with a 1B/DH on their wish list. Matt Holliday, Dunn is not, but he’d bring comparable offensive production, just keep the Big Donkey away from the outfield.

The only stumbling block I can see that would deter a team from trading for Dunn is that he has 1 year, $12 million left on his contract after the season. While that might not be ideal for some buyers, in view of the fact that he’ll most likely be a 3-4 win player next year, that’s really not all that exorbitant.

The Nationals are a terrible team with a rather weak farm system. They need all the extra dough they can scrape up just to sign Strasburg, and more talent than the Zimmerman(n)s and Derek Norris to build around their future ace. It’s a quarter to midnight, Mr. Rizzo. Do the team’s future GM a favor and don’t just keep his seat warm. Give him or her a head start at rebuilding this mess.

updated: I stand corrected, Johnson is just short of Type B status. He’s still a decent trading chip, though.

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Erik Manning is the founder of Future Redbirds and covers the Cardinals for Heater Magazine. You can get more of his analysis and rantings in bite-sized bits by following him on twitter.

29 Responses to “Getting Nothing Dunn”

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  1. Joe R says:

    Nats are so brilliant.
    Let’s cling onto our defensively challenged but offensively awesome LF, no AL team could possibly want him.

    Surprised the Rangers haven’t made a play for him, they could use someone that can hit with power and work the count.

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  2. David A says:

    Re: the Hammer. Teams could have had him for a song earlier in the year. Now I think the Nats asking price is probably too high. There ought to be an AL team, though, that could use him.

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  3. tom says:

    I don’t believe Nick Johnson is going to be a type B free agent. They’re basically keeping him and letting him go to FA for nothing.

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  4. Nate says:

    Feel free to point out those teams offering a Holliday-esque package for Dunn or Willingham and Nats fans will happily pay the airfare to ship them out of town. Otherwise it seems you’re suggesting that because the Nats are a bad team they should trade their good players just to trade them. The Nats may not have many fans, but they’ll have even fewer after they turn themselves into a farm team for other clubs.

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  5. Matt says:

    This would seem like a perfect fit for the WHITE SOX!

    Seriously, Thome gone after next year, Dunn steps in. It’s perfect.

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  6. Ben says:

    Nice article! They should sell, I agree.

    Nick Johnson won’t be a Type B free agent.

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  7. JCA says:

    What is the market for Dunn this year? Which AL contender can use a DH and is willing to pay him $12m next year? I don’t see Texas as a market due to the finances and the outfield / DH glut. Detroit has trouble finding playing time for Thames with Guillen back. As for next year, there’s an abundance of older outfield / 1B that will be free agents, so you can expect the market for DHs will crash. I just don’t see Dunn’s market now. Next year, if there is an injury to an AL DH, then he becomes a high value replacement.

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    • Sam says:

      Yeah, we can cross out a lot of teams.

      Yankees – They already have a lot of DH types.
      Red Sox – They already have an Ortiz, why need another?
      Rays – They have Pat Burrell.
      Twins – Jason Kubel, and Dunn is not their type of player anyway.
      White Sox – Has Thome.
      Angels – Also have a lot of OF/DH types.
      Mariners – They can’t possibly be serious about contending this year, and Dunn doesn’t help them long term in any way.

      If Oakland were contending and Giambi was gone, then that could have been one potential destination for Dunn.

      I just don’t see any market for Dunn, even if the Nationals front office is incompetent.

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  8. Darren says:

    What exactly is going to turn Dunn into a 3-4 win player next year? Is this the same magic that is going to make Freddy Sanchez not worth $8 mil?

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  9. Matt says:

    I’d argue that with Quentin hobbling and Big Jim only being able to play 4-5 times a week there is certainly plenty of AB to go around with the White Sox

    KW has never shown he cares much about OF defense anyways.

    Thome’s option for next year will not be picked up. The White Sox desperately need another on base and power threat. Dunn is that guy.

    Would the Nats be interested in Poreda and Fields as the principals for Dunn? Sox could certainly throw in some cash or lower level guys.

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  10. Wrighteous says:

    i am surprised the nats have not shown more interest in scott kazmir. i think the rays, earlier in the week at least, would have been willing to basically give him away if it meant they could then go ahead and pick up halladay. the nats have some money to throw around, even though everyone thinks of them as a small market team (mostly because they suck). it would be nice to see them get a little creative, surely they have nothing to lose.

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  11. Darren says:

    The article does not say he needs to move to DH, just that he should be kept away from the OF. But Dunn is a horrible 1B, according to both UZR and scouting. Using his UZR and the positional adjustment, he’d be less valuable as a 1B than as an OF.

    As for DH, you’d have to adjust for position somehow. If I’m remembering right, it’s about 10 runs difference from corner OF. That means you’re adding about 5 runs to his value over a full season, making him a 2-3 win player.

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  12. Joe R says:

    I’m actually surprised the Sox aren’t making a play for him, since they’re talking about Adrian Gonzalez.

    Exactly what we need, a fifth corner IF / DH type.

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  13. Big Oil says:

    While I agree that moving Dunn would make sense under the right circumstances, he does play a significant role in the Nats’ offense and its effectiveness (5th in the NL in runs). Given the past history of not having a “big bat” and now (seemingly) having plugged that hole, the cost of unplugging it is probably one the front office doesn’t want to face (pride or ignorance being the M.O.). Now, clearly, they won’t contend this year or next. But blame shouldn’t be laid on the offense; the defense and pitching — specifically putrid bullpen performances — have been the undoing. Dave’s post earlier this month regarding Morgan = Dunn underscores the trade offs vis a vis offense and defensive production. Dunn’s defense isn’t the reason for the team’s record.

    Is a poor defense solely the culprit for terrible bullpen pitching, then? No. The Nationals don’t have any true prospect thumpers close to making an impact in the majors. Perhaps Dukes lives up to his promise and helps to offset any loss of Dunn, in which case, and in my eternal optimism, we should absolutely sell Dunn for the better of 1). talent prospects 2). prospects who display a legitimate ability to get outs out of the bullpen.

    Frankly, if I’m Rizzo and I’m hearing rumors about a GM search winding down, you find something. If the Giants will dump Alderson for Sanchez, surely there is someone out there who will overpay for Dunn (Dayton Moore and Moustakas, right). At the same time, I agree wholeheartedly with Nate. It’s lose/lose for the Nats if the package isn’t there, and sadly that is something we are used to as fans.

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  14. Darren says:

    Adrian Gonzalez can actually field 1B competently and plays in the grand canyon. He’s a much better player than Dunn and a lot cheaper and locked up longer.

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    • Joe R says:

      True, I’m not arguing that point, just that the Sox seem to have no issue with a roster glut. Money isn’t exactly an overwhelming concern for the Red Sox obviously, we’d have to give up a ton for Gonzalez, maybe just a Mike Bowden and marginal prospect for Dunn.

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      • Darren says:

        But Dunn’s not worth that. It’s debatable whether he’s a better player as a 1B than LaRoche is.

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      • Joe R says:

        Bowden isn’t worth a guy with a career 132 OPS+?

        That’s, um, debateable.

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      • Darren says:

        No, not to the Red Sox who have DH filled and very similar player to Dunn in LaRoche.

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      • Joe R says:

        DH filled with a .738 OPS.

        Bringing in Dunn wouldn’t cause much more of a clusterf*** than Gonzalez anyway, which would turn Lowell and Ortiz into the priciest DH platoon ever.

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  15. Tony C says:

    I heard speculation that Rizzo’s hands are tied by the Lerner Family, and he’s really not allowed to make any big moves. I don’t know if that is true or not, but it sounds like a reasonable thing for the Lerner family to do. I do not mean reasonable like it is a good idea, rather that it makes sense that they would do something that unreasonable.

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  16. cboone21 says:

    Before criticizing the Nats front office too hard, considert the following:

    (1) Where has Pittsburg’s “eternal fire-sale” gotten that franchise?
    (2) Nats have finally excised Bowden, but give them some time to emerge from the resulting turmoil
    (3) The deals for Dunn and Nyjer have been encouraging, at least in terms of getting good players at proper value
    (4) The Nats outscore the Cardinals. With time, their insanely young (but truly promising) staff may have them much more competitive.

    So why blow everything up if they aren’t necessarily OVERpaying?

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    • joser says:

      The Pirates potentially are in the same place that the 61-101 Devil Rays were in 2006. Get young, make good draft picks (and hang onto them). and develop the talent. This requires patience (among the fanbase and ownership), real skill and confidence in the FO, excellent player development skills in the farm system, some time and yes a bit of luck.

      Washington could get there too, but they have to clear a lot of dead wood accumulated from the past regime (and not just on the roster). Unlike the Rays, which was merely a woebegone franchise in an ambivalent market, the Expos started out that way and then were actively driven into the ground by malevolent (Loria) or delinquent (MLB) ownership, and then transplanted/foisted upon an ambivalent market. They have a few advantages the Rays didn’t (a decent stadium with potential for lots of lobbyist-driven luxury box revenue, if they can make it as desirable a venue as the Redskins) but are starting from the bottom of a much deeper hole.

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  17. H says:

    As far as Johnson’s concerned, I’ll bet he gets moved today. As far as Dunn’s concerned, if the demand isn’t there – be it because of the economy or glut of DH types on the contenders – the Nats might do better to trade him next year when the acquiring team will have less of a financial commitment to him.

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  18. joser says:

    The Nationals are on their way to losing well over 100 games this season and even the most die-hard idealist isn’t expecting them contend anytime soon.

    Isn’t this the crux of the plan as long as “sure things” like Strassburg and Bryce Harper keep showing up at the top of the draft?
    1. Lose more games than anyone else
    2. Collect #1 draft pick
    3. …
    4. Profit!

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