Reflections from a reporter born in 1987

The Nationals need Adam Dunn

September 28, 2010 - 02:15 PM
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Here's what Adam Dunn said after last Friday's 8-3 win over the Atlanta Braves, in which he hit two home runs to give him 37 dingers on the season, and was serenaded by chants of "Sign Adam Dunn.":

"[Washington's] starting to become home," he said. "The way the fans have received me, it's good. I don't know how else to put it. That's something that doesn't happen often."

Here's what Mark Zuckerman wrote after the Nationals lost 8-0 last night in front of an overwhelmingly pro-Phillies crowd:

"But it's not going to do the Nats any good to proceed into next season as though it's a lost cause before it begins ... No, it probably won't result in a title of any kind. It may not even result in 81 wins. But it will put this franchise in better position a year from now (once Strasburg is back) to make that leap, rather than delaying it even farther down the road."

And finally, here's what MASN's Ben Goessling reported today:

[A]ccording to sources familiar with the team's thinking, they're likely to let [Dunn] walk.

The team continues to view Dunn's defense at first base as a sticking point, and is reluctant to give him the four-year deal he prefers because of it. Dunn has said he wants to stay in Washington and would be open to a three-year deal, but the feeling from the Nationals does not appear to be mutual.

'I can tell you the only person in the front office who wants to resign him is the owner,' said one scout for an opposing team who covers the Nationals regularly.

Confused? So am I.

Look, Adam Dunn was put on this earth to be a designated hitter. There's no point in denying that his defense is below average. It's just a question of how below average he is. The answer depends on where you get your statistical information. Baseball-Reference gives Dunn a WAR (wins above replacement) number of 3.6, while the more generous Fangraphs gives him a WAR of 4.1.

What that means, in essence, is that as bad as Dunn's defense has been (and by any measurement it has improved significantly this year), his offense has been so superlative as to render his defensive flaws almost irrelevant. Dunn's line entering tonight's game looks like this: In 153 games and 630 plate appearances, he has a .264 BA/.362 OBP/.543 SLG/.905 OPS, with 37 home runs (tied for second in the National League).

Adam Dunn is durable on a team that's been plagued with injuries to its biggest names. He and Ryan Zimmerman form an electrifying offensive tandem on a team that ranks 12th in the NL in runs scored (647), 9th in on-base percentage (.321), and 11th in slugging percentage and OPS (.396 and .717, respectively). He's a bona fide box-office player on a team that is struggling at the gate. He claims he wants to stay and would even be open to eschewing the four-year deal he would undoubtedly get on the open market. 

The Nationals owe it to themselves and their fans to make an honest effort to resign Dunn in the offseason. Offer him a four-year deal. If they only offer three years, they should offer him $20 million per year. If they do that, and he walks, then at least the Nationals can face the fans and say they did their best to keep him. But if Dunn gets a token offer and walks, calling it "insulting" on his way out, then no amount of justification will stop the increased cynicism (as opposed to the current apathy) in the fan base. And that's the kind of thing that no amount of promises of a successful future can prevent.

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