Despite reports just last week that the two sides were hopeful that something could get done, rumors are surfacing that the Washington Nationals do not expect – indeed do not want – to re-sign first baseman Adam Dunn, who is a free agent at the end of this season. Money is, of course, always a consideration, but sources indicate that the primary reason is Dunn’s disappointing defense at first base.
[T]he people making baseball decisions, like general manager Mike Rizzo and manager Jim Riggleman, see Dunn’s defense as the chief issue, according to sources familiar with the team’s thinking. The Nationals tried hard to trade Dunn at the July 31 trade deadline, one source said, but they couldn’t find a package they believed would bring back more than the two draft picks they’d get if Dunn left in free agency.
Dunn has improved defensively at first base this year, cutting down on his errors and trimming his Ultimate Zone Rating to 1.9 runs below average. But he hasn’t been nimble enough around first base to stop hard liners that better fielders might turn into outs, and according to the scout, Dunn’s defense is worse than statistics will quantify.
“He costs them half a run a game,” the scout said. “You’re involved in so many plays – pickoffs, scoops in the dirt, fielding plays – it’s worse than it looks on paper.”
One source said he expects Dunn will get the four-year deal he’s looking for on the open market, for something in the range of $60 million. It’s likely the Nationals will still offer Dunn arbitration, so they can get two draft picks as compensation if he signs with another team, but the prospects of them locking him up long-term appear to be unlikely. MASN.
Defense is, of course, one of the main reasons Dunn took so long to sign two years ago, and why the Nationals got him at such a sweet price. Perhaps the same will be true this offseason, but as Dunn advances in age, he may be more willing to consider a move to the American League, where he can DH on a more permanent basis. There, he might be able to get a deal somewhere close to the 4/$60 million he’s expecting – on a team for which he’d have to play in the field every day, it’s hard to imagine him getting more than 3/$40.
So where does this leave the Cubs? With yesterday’s revelation that 2012 free agent Adrian Gonzalez would love to play in Chicago, the Cubs will face a difficult decision this offseason: Adam Dunn in the hand, or Adrian Gonzalez in the bush?
Of course, if the Cubs’ payroll lands where it is expected – and the Cubs aren’t able to unload salary – the decision might be made for them, as they won’t be able to afford Dunn this year anyway.