White Sox Sign Adam Dunn

Two years after getting scorned by most of baseball, Adam Dunn has reportedly landed the big deal he’s been looking for. According to the LA Times, the White Sox are on the verge of a 4 year, $56 million deal to bring Dunn to the south side of Chicago. Interestingly enough, he’s coming off almost the exact same offensive season he had the last time he was a free agent, and is two years older, but he’s getting a deal for double the years and almost triple the money of his last contract.

There seem to be several factors driving the difference. One, as we’ve noted, prices for players seem to be going up this winter. Nearly every player who has signed so far has gotten more money than expected before the winter began, and Dunn continues that trend. The median estimate from our Contract Crowdsourcing results had him signing for 3/36, and this is an extra year and several million per year more for Dunn. For whatever reason, MLB teams seem far more willing to spend on talent this winter than in the past two off-seasons.

There’s also Dunn’s willingness to accept a position with an AL team, and by extension, an agreement to spend some time at DH. Two years ago, Dunn was viewed as perhaps the worst defensive player in baseball, and yet he was steadfast that he wanted to remain on the field, whether that was in the outfield or at first base. The Nationals took advantage of the soft market that created and made Dunn his only real offer.

This time, Dunn realized that to get paid, he had to be willing to put down the glove. While the White Sox will likely use him at first base if they don’t re-sign Paul Konerko, he’ll almost certainly see time at DH as well, especially in the latter part of this contract. Dunn’s fielding has been a huge stain on his career, and being willing to stay off the field created enough interest for him to become significantly richer.

For the White Sox, they get the left-handed slugger they’ve been coveting for a while, and Dunn should have no problem launching balls into the seats in one of the most home run friendly parks in America. However, they paid a pretty steep price to acquire his power. As a Type A free agent, Dunn’s signing will cost the White Sox the 23rd pick in the upcoming draft, and they’ll also be on the hook for $14 million a season for Dunn’s age 31-34 seasons.

This deal essentially values him as a +3 win player going forward. If he ends up strictly as a DH, he’d need to post a .380 wOBA and get 600 plate appearances to reach that mark. Not coincidentally, his career wOBA is .384. If he plays first base regularly, he may need to hit even better than that, however, as his defense there is still a negative.

Essentially, the White Sox are betting that Dunn can maintain his peak production into his early 30s while switching leagues and potentially transitioning to being a bat-only player. If he sees some age related decline, struggles in the American League, or doesn’t adjust well to life as a sometimes-DH, he’ll have a hard time justifying this contract.

However, Dunn has been a remarkably consistent offensive performer, and he’s going to the American League version of heaven for flyball hitters. While it’s probably a bit more money than I would have paid, it’s pretty easy to see Dunn being successful in Chicago for at least the first half of this deal. It’s probably a bit of an overpay, but it’s one that has a decent chance of working out.




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Dave is a co-founder of USSMariner.com and contributes to the Wall Street Journal.


78 Responses to “White Sox Sign Adam Dunn”

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  1. Mike says:

    The White Sox are on the … South … Side.

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  2. Matt says:

    I take it that you think that Dunn’s improved UZR at first in 2010 is just random variation?

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  3. Beanball says:

    er…. Southside

    I think there’s another baseball team on the other side of town.

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  4. tbr says:

    Dunn is already in his early 30s, so the White Sox are actually betting on him maintaining his current pace into his MID 30s.

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    • CircleChange11 says:

      He just turned 31. So the deal covers his age 31-34 age seasons.

      Given his “old player skills”, I’m not seeing the concern.

      The deal is basically assuming that if there is a decline, it will be very slight (based on past history and skill set).

      What is he going to do? Lose speed? Lose plate discipline? Stop beating out IF hits? Adam Dunn’s value is in walks and home runs. Those age well.

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      • Well, the thing about “old player skills” is that they generally refer to a young player who just plays like he’s old. Those guys typically don’t age well.

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      • Bat speed doesn’t age well for big hulking dudes with little mobility.

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      • CircleChange11 says:

        Name some big hulking dudes who lost their power rapidly during their 31-34 age seasons.

        I’m not talking about Darrel Evans at 40.

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      • Deelron says:

        Richie Sexson says hello.

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      • Eponymous says:

        Richie Sexson leaps to mind. Cecil Fielder didn’t crash as hard, but he was out of the league by 34, too.

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      • CircleChange11 says:

        He lost 100 points of his ISO in his last 2 seasons. That’s significant.

        I don’t really recall, did he have health issues (injuries)? I ask because I am only concerned with aging, not injuries.

        It’s interesting because there likely isn’t too many comparables to Adam Dunn given his size, consistency, and age.

        I will say, that as batters, Dunn and Sexson are complete opposites … both in approach and swing path. Sexson’s hands traveled all over the place depending on what stance he was using this week. Dunn is pretty compact, even for a 6’6 287 guy. He’s not really the “Darryl Strawberry” type that has to get his body moving and hands travel in order to generate a long, leverage swing. Sexson seemed to be from the “Eric Davis” school of hitting, basically a mess, but had natural talent enough to still be successful.

        Interesting.

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      • Charles says:

        Circlechange – where did you get your numbers? Dunn’s ISO hasn’t dropped, and he’s at the top of the games played list over the last 5 years. He still has power and he’s been healthy. Nothing he’s done yet suggests he won’t age well. It’s just that we expect big all or nothing guys not to do so.

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      • CircleChange11 says:

        We were talking about Richie Sexson.

        Adam Dunn has been as consistent as San Diego weather.

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      • Dag Gummit says:

        Well, he did drop in BB% from 17.4 to a career low of 11.9, so yeah his skills have already begun to erode. With the league transition, I don’t think it’s hard to see the possibility for him to fall of a cliff in glorious fashion a la Pat Burrell et al.

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    • Deelron says:

      Also just looking at his Similarity scores from B-Ref, the top 10 (particularly looking at age 31-34) are
      Jay Buhner (ok),
      Darryl Strawberry (lousy)
      Pat Burrell (terrible in Tampa, good in SF)
      Richie Sexson (absolutely terrible)
      Troy Glaus (good at 31, then terrible)
      Ralph Kiner (good, except done at 32 (back injury))
      Jeromy Burnitz (meh)
      Danny Tartabull (bad, particularly by WAR )
      Greg Vaughn (pretty good, 1 bad year one 6+ WAR year)
      Hank Sauer (fine, WWII influenced)

      Just some people to think about.

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      • U-G says:

        strawberry is a bit of an unfair comparison due to the substance abuse

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      • Kyle says:

        -Buhner never even had 30 doubles, was rumored to be using roids, and had Griffey Jr., A-Rod, and Edgar Martinez…
        -Strawberry was a junkie and alcoholic…
        -Pat Burrell was never that good.
        -Sexson, really??
        -Troy Glaus used HGH and other anabolic goodies…
        -Kiner got injured so he doesn’t count
        -Burnitz was okay, but come on!
        - Tartabull had 262 homeruns… wow….
        -Vaughn and Kiner have more homeruns than Dunn already has. Took him 1,128 more at-bats to get one more than Dunn. Kiner was hurt and would have hit a tone more.
        -Hank Sauer’s best seasons came when he was 33-35 and 37.

        So what was the point of your argument??? Dunn is 7th best in the history of baseball hitting a homerun in every 14.1 at-bats. He’s been healthy since 2003, and has had 5 40 homerun and two 38 homerun seasons the past two years. He walks almost 100 times as well. These comparisons are basically a joke, now Dunn will straight up ball in Chicago. It’s a launching pad, and Dunn is the most consistent power hitter in baseball now. Unlike Jason Bay, Dunn is made to DH now, and won’t suddenly hit 6 homeruns. His bombs clear the fences by 30-50 feet easily.

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      • CircleChange11 says:

        When I look at that list, my primary thought is “This really illustrates how difficult it is to find a player comparable to Adam Dunn.”

        Jay Buhner would be the one I would consider most comparable, given batting styles, and even Buhner is a little eccentric in terms of mechanics.

        Troy Glaus is comparable in body comp, and plate approach, but not power proficiency (IMO).

        Like I said, to me, the list shows just how unique of a situation Adam Dunn is.

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  5. Neato Landrum says:

    So much for getting Adam Dunn for less than $20 again this year. Every blogger with a moustache and a keyboard is going to tout Dunn as undervalued at New Comiskey. Thanks a lot, Kenny. You bastard.

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  6. Azmanz says:

    I donno where else to ask this, but: with Oakland and Detroit ending the year with the 15th best record (meaning one will draft in the top half, the other in the bottom), who would lose their first round pick by signing a Type A?

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    • Jon E says:

      Detroit had the better record the year before, so they forfeited their pick when they signed Victor Martinez. The A’s have their pick protected if Beane decides to sign a Type A.

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  7. CircleChange11 says:

    Another reason why teams are more willing to pay Dunn is the reduced number of elite power hitters, make him more unique. Chalk it up to less PEDs in baseball, retirements of some great power hitters, etc … but the number of guys that can hit 40-50 potential homers ain’t what it used to be.

    While it’s probably a bit more money than I would have paid, it’s pretty easy to see Dunn being successful in Chicago for at least the first half of this deal. It’s probably a bit of an overpay, but it’s one that has a decent chance of working out.

    Dave, just go ahead and say that this is a good signing (as of now) for the CWS. I promise, you’ll still wake up in the morning. *wink*

    A .380 wOBA power hitter that is very consistent. That’s exactly what you want in a free agent signing where fielding is not going to be a significant issue.

    I agree that the last two years may be a bit of an overpay (but do we really know how Dunn will age?), but could easily be balanced out by a slight under-pay in the first two years.

    Basically, the CWS made a fair deal to a piece they needed on their team without giving up prospects. That’s a good deal.

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    • He can’t hit 50. He hasn’t hit 40 since 2008, and hasn’t hit more than 40 since 2004.

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      • CircleChange11 says:

        Okay, okay, okay.

        Lemme re-phrase … “Since 2004 he’s hit between 38-46 home runs annually. How many guys can do that?”

        The point was that the number of power hitters has declined, for whatever reason, making Dunn’s value (perhaps) more.

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      • NSCEGF says:

        I’m not betting against him in that park. That said, Ozzie Guillen is not really the best manager for Adam Dunn.

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      • CircleChange11 says:

        Ozzie Guillen is not really the best manager for Adam Dunn.

        How so?

        Dunn, perhaps more than other players, seems to be a “managerless” player. You’re not going to bunt him, bunt him over, steal him, move him around the field, etc.

        There’s really no “managing to Dunn” outside of “If it’s a strike, hit it a long way”, and figuring out whether he bats 4th or 5th. And Dunn doesn’t seem to be an emotional guy that will clash with Ozzie, nor does he seem to be one of those guys that drives himself crazy ala TCQ.

        I think Jim Thome is a very good comp for what we could expect from Dunn. Thome’s production went down a little, toward the end, due to injuries … but that was also Thome’s 36-38 age seasons.

        Easy going big dudes that carry a big stick are the easiest guys to have on the team (or manage). They do one or two things well, and you don’t worry about the rest.

        Ozzie’s biggest challenge with Dunn is to come up with a non-offensive or race-based Spanish nickname. Cabello is already taken, and I’m ruling out Cabello Blanco.

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      • dickey simpkins says:

        Yes, because Ozzie Guillen has zero experience with managing a DH with no mobility and worthless fielding skills.

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      • NSCEGF says:

        Fair enough comp with Thome. Even Ozzie can’t expect Dunn to do anything but what he’s good at, but too many Ks in a row with RISP and Ozzie is going to go more insane than he already is.

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  8. Austin says:

    As someone noted in a Fangraphs article earlier this year, Dunn saw a pretty precipitous drop in his walk rate this year while his strikeouts also rose significantly, which is a worrying occurrence. Of course it’s silly to assume that those skills will continue to decline over the time of this contract, or even that they’ll remain at this year’s levels, but I don’t really like it, and as everyone probably knows, Dunn is just the kind of player that doesn’t age well, anyway. I don’t think that the deal will be a disaster for the White Sox, but I don’t expect them to get the full $56 million of value out of it even if salaries inflate somewhat over the next few years.

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    • CircleChange11 says:

      Dunn is just the kind of player that doesn’t age well, anyway.

      How so?

      His value is walks and home runs.

      Aren’t power and plate discipline about the last things to go?

      If there is any concern, it should be his back & knees, given Dunnkey’s size and age.

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      • frug says:

        A few years ago Bill James noticed that there were certain skills that players tended to use when they depended on heavily when they were young (which he creatively dubbed “young player” skills) and tended to fade as they aged. These tended to be speed and agility related skills like defense and base stealing as well as the ability to hit for high batting average. In order to compensate for this, players adjusted their approaches and adopted other abilities (specifically the ability to hit for power and draw walks). James called these “old player” skills. What he also found is that players who relied on old player skills when they were young didn’t age well since once they began to see their natural abilities fade they didn’t have anytway to compensate.

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      • dnc says:

        Your continued misunderstanding of old player skills is killing me. Players with old player skills when they are young almost never age well. This is extremely well documented.

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  9. Dan says:

    So, Dunn is 4 years away from being signed by Sabean, right?

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    • CircleChange11 says:

      The dumbest GM ever jokes are usually funnier in a year when that GM’s teams did NOT win the WS and the GM did NOT make good moves that contributed to the win.

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    • Tasintango says:

      Sabean’s signings worked really bad for him last year. Didn’t they?

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      • Holier says:

        He knew the ghost of Pat Burrell, the never was of Cody Ross, and the miracle of SSS would lift them to WS glory and confirmation bias would wipe his record squeaky clean. Hurrah to money for waiver claims!

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    • NSCEGF says:

      That act is so tired.

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      • Charles says:

        And yet, you didn’t say ‘incorrect’. Very telling.

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      • NSCEGF says:

        At least the old-timers like Tejada are getting one year now. And Burrell and Huff are only 34 – it’s not like 2006, when Bonds, Finley, Vizquel, Alou, Vizcaino, Fassero, and Stanton were all 38 or older.

        Four starting pitchers at 28 or younger, with Bumgarner 21. Posey and Sandoval, going into age-24 seasons. Closer and set-up men no older than 29.

        The Giants are no Marlins in terms of average age, but they aren’t the fossilized team they once were.

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    • Danmay says:

      To everyone that assumed that Dan (no relation) implied that Sabean was dumb:

      Maybe he was just talking about signing old players.

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      • CircleChange11 says:

        I get it.

        It’s a decent to poor joke, but wrong place and bad timing.

        Not as silly as the #6Org jokes, but the Sabaen stuff is tiresome.

        Seriously, we listed/read Sabaen bashing all summer.

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  10. Brian says:

    geez. considering what is out there as cheaper options at 1B and DH, I think it’s an overpay. The wins over replacement as it’s calculated right now might be acceptable, but 1B/DH seems to be a position lately where there’s a lot of value to be had, so a realistic replacement option might be a 1.0-1.5 WAR/$3M guy like Jack Cust or Brad Hawpe, who you could also platoon with a cheap, productive right-handed bat (Matt Diaz maybe?) for some extra value.

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    • objectiveobserver says:

      Pairing “a Jack Cust with a Matt Diaz (maybe)” and proclaiming it as good as signing Dunn is exactly the kind of poorly thought out idea that gets proposed on Fangraphs…and laughed at hysterically by smart baseball people.

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  11. steve says:

    el burro grande que se ejecuta como una que lleva un piso en la espalda

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  12. Leslie Nielsen says:

    Since everyone is overpaid in Fangraphs-land, Victor Martinez made more sense for Chicago.

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    • Nick says:

      Not only that, apparently this deal is way better than the Martinez deal, even though Martinez plays catcher, isn’t completely reliant on old-people skills, and signed for less money.

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    • Jason B says:

      “Since everyone is overpaid in Fangraphs-land”

      No. I wish you were still alive, Enrico Palazzo, but no.

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  13. yajeflow says:

    as a long-time defender of dunn’s, i am THRILLED with this signing. the ballpark and league will help somewhat (a 470′ homer doesn’t really care about where a fence was), but the fact that he will have a surrounding cast will do wonders for dunn. now teams will HAVE to pitch to him.
    dunn is a unique beast. that is why it has taken so long for people to figure him out and realize his true worth as a hitter. he is streaky within seasons, but amazingly consistent across seasons.
    he needs 146 homers to reach 500, which is an average of 36.5 for four years. i am not betting against him doing this within this contract. i see a lot of people talk about age or decline or increase in strikeouts. until i actually see signs of decline in dunn, i will continue to expect around 40 HR and played nearly every game, as he has done for seven seasons running now.
    some have said thome is a good match, and that may be so. but what about a guy named frank thomas? he hit 39+ homer three times after turning 30 and still was drawing a lot of walks.
    i will be in cooperstown 2024 for dunn’s induction. see ya there.

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    • Teej says:

      Frank Thomas was a much different (and much better) hitter. To go with his power, he had great contact ability through his prime and could afford to lose a little of that as he aged. He hit .321 through his age-30 season. Dunn is at .250.

      I like Dunn, and I’m not guaranteeing a steep decline over the next four years, but Thomas was one of the best hitters of all time. Not much of a similarity there.

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      • James says:

        Agreed.

        Thomas was among the best hitters in all of baseball for 7-10 years (and very good in few more), won 2 MVPs, and probably should’ve had a third.

        I don’t think Dunn has ever been considered one of the best hitters in his league, he’s just been consistently good with power. He’s probably never been among the best hitters in the game in any season, and in my opinion, is nowhere near a hall of famer.

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    • tonysoprano says:

      This was the point I was going to make as well. He has a better supporting cast with the White Sox then he did with the Nationals. That should help him.

      I now wonder if the Sox sign Konerko or let him walk. As a Sox fan I would like for them to bring him back for a 3 or 4 year deal.

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  14. Sean says:

    Really hope the Nats give Mike Morse an opportunity for a full time gig after losing Dunn.

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  15. MikeS says:

    “several million per year more”

    Since when is 2 ”several?” I’d say this is pretty close to market rate and fangraphs crowdsourcing. Expecting Dunn to be a 3 – 4 win player is not unreasonable, is it? If KW would have waited the price may have actually gone up some.

    Compare and contrast with 3/45 for Jeter. Not to mention the hilarious 6/120 he is rumored to be asking for.

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    • phoenix says:

      jeter is different because he is dealing with the yankees’ deep pockets and he has that whole legend/name thing going on and the “what i mean to the yankees” card. if he were on the open market he would be getting a 2/16 deal at the most. dunn got his deal on the open market without all this name value crap.

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  16. philosofool says:

    Dunn is NOT coming off a season that’s the same as the last time he signed. His numbers are the same, but league offense is way down. Dunn is relatively *more* valuable. Two years in Washington proves that he’s capable of hitting outside a slugger friendly park (Washington is fairly neutral.) As a TTO hitter, he stands to do pretty well on the South Side.

    This deal isn’t great, and it’s not bad.

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  17. Chris K says:

    As a Sox fan, I’m just glad that Kenny’s not burning money on another Jake Peavy. If they can resign Konerko they’ve got a fairly potent offense to pair with the best pitching in baseball. Add in the fact that they just got AJ for two years / 8MM (yeah, yeah, his arm sucks, but he’s still worth at least 1 WAR) and refused to spend on Jenks when they already have a stacked bullpen, and Kenny’s looking pretty good thus far. So long as they don’t overspend on Konerko, I think he’s done much better this offseason that the Fangraphs community would expect.

    Now let’s just hope that Beckham bounces back, Quentin learns to judge a fly ball, and Ozzie doesn’t bench Dunn for a Vizquel/Kotsay/Teahen platoon.

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  18. baty says:

    It’s so easy to say that this deal is a bit expensive…

    But in reality, It’s going to take a little more for the White Sox to sign him this early and convince him to fit into this team.

    If you’re looking for a proven left handed power commodity that isn’t going to break the bank, who else can you take? I think the problem is that Dunn had that market cornered.

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  19. Blowjob Hack (Wilson) says:

    Lol – Dunnkey!

    That was a good one. Never heard that before.

    I hear these people barking about Sabean, but it’s always tough to make the “Team X won in spite of him argument.” If the team lost, you’d blame him. Now that the team won the WS, people are saying he doesn’t deserve any credit. It can’t be both ways.

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  20. Nightrider says:

    Dunn is without saying outpaid, but one of the luckiest SOG’s around due to his
    “power.” But he will lose it, as he can’t get around fast enough with his fat torso on a fastball. Sox fans will see alot of swing and misses from this guy. And it will be a blessing in disguise because he runs (this word used liberally) the bases
    terribly.

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  21. Sidd Finch says:

    Adam Dunn is the black Ryan Howard, yet Dunn got 4/$56 and Howard got 5/$125.

    That is whack.

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    • CircleChange11 says:

      Adam Dunn is the black Ryan Howard

      Ryan Howard is the BLACK Ryan Howard. *big grin*

      The power numbers between those two guys is not close. Howard averages 10 more HRs a year, and his team has been to 2 WS, winning once.

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      • yajeflow says:

        OPS+ figures:

        2010: dunn 138 ; howard 128
        2009-10: dunn 141; howard 135
        2008-10: dunn 138; howard 131
        2007-10: dunn 137; howard 137

        prior to 2007, howard was a better hitter. since 2007, dunn has been a better hitter. you are paying for what a player will do, not what they have done. howard’s prime was apparently 2006.

        as far as ‘world series’ goes…if there is one thing that i must change on this plent before i die, it will be to stop people attributing TEAM success with INDIVIDUAL success.

        for example, you may have noticed that dunn does not pitch. do you not think that say, the quality of a team’s pitching staff, has perhaps something to do with a team winning? then there is the question of teammates.

        dunn was a better hitter than howard last season. philly scored 772 runs…2nd in the NL. washington scored 655…third worst in the NL. is this starting to sink in?

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      • CircleChange11 says:

        I simply used home runs because that’s essentially what both guys are being paid for.

        I was not making it any more complicated than I felt it needed to be.

        Neither guy is paid to “walk”, even though walks can help the team.

        If Ryan Howard hit 24 HRs and year and walked 120 times, he wouldn’t get a 25M/y contract.

        Same with Dunn, take his homers from 35 to 25, and the contract money goes in half.

        I was just keeping it simple.

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    • dnc says:

      Dunn is the black Ryan Howard? Interesting observation.

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  22. Sox27 says:

    Resign Paulie, and then trade Carlos “pouty face” Quentin for a corner outfield who can um catch the ball…IMMEDIATELY!

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  23. Mike Green says:

    Thome had an OPS+ of 147 through age 30; Dunn’s is at 133. Thome’s age 30 BBRef comp list includes Belle, Kiner, Delgado, McGriff, Dick Allen, Canseco, Strawberry, Colavito, and Reggie. Dunn is not a better hitter than any of Thome’s comps and noticeably poorer than most of them. Belle had two great years, one mediocre one and then was gone. Kiner and Colavito had one good year and that was it. Delgado and Reggie were very good through their mid 30s, while McGriff was totally mediocre.

    The chances of this contract working out well for the White Sox are probably under 1 in 3.

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  24. JCA says:

    During the contract crowd sourcing, I asked about whether there might be a “winners curse” effect on the estimates. While everyone is guessing what they think Dunn etc… will get, the numbers on the high side of the median would reflect other reasonable guesses, and the winning bid should be the high reasonable estimate by a team / GM. If you look at Dunn, while the median was 3/$12 MM AAV, the SDs were huge. An extra year and an extra $2.75 MM AAV. Dunn’s final contract was within 1 SD of the median (4/ $14MM AAV).

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