The reports seem to be growing louder and louder that the Nationals won’t be bringing Adam Dunn back next season. And if true, would represent a huge set back for the organization. The reports have been consistent in saying that the Nationals are hesitant to offer Dunn the 4 year’s that he wants, instead preferring to stick to 2 or 3 years. Defense seems to be the chief concern among the naysayers in resigning Dunn, despite it being better this year at first base. Now no one will confuse Dunn for an elite defender, but he has improved his defense enough to warrant a job at first for the Nats.
And if you had made this decision that Dunn wasn’t worth 4 years, why didn’t you move him two months ago at the trade deadline? I know you might not have gotten the cream of the crop in prospects, but even a couple 2nd tier guys (Dan Hudson+ from the White Sox perhaps) would have been worth it compared to the draft picks you will receive. For all the hype about getting two first round picks, it really isn’t true. It is only a first round pick if a team has one of the top 15 records in the majors. So that means team’s like say the Angels who might look for an upgrade at DH over Matsui (not to mention one that can play some 1B in case Morales gets hurt again), or the Cubs who need a power hitter in the middle of their lineup and a 1B, or even say the Brewers if they deal Fielder might look for a big bat to replace him, would only have to give up a 2nd round pick to replace him.
What’s worse is those aren’t going to be the only weak teams chasing him, the A’s could get interested as they need a big bat and have always valued three true outcome guys like Dunn. Also the cross town Orioles have been looking to make a splash for years and could upgrade over Ty Wiggington at 1B. While the Nats could get a 1st round pick if a team like the White Sox, Giants, Braves or Rangers (among others) sign Dunn, it isn’t a given. Dunn is on the low end of the spectrum for Type-A free agents (the system is a bit antiquated, and Dunn’s average weighs him down) so if a team like the Braves were to add both Dunn and say Jayson Werth this offseason the Nationals would get the Braves 2nd round pick. While it is a bit less unlikely a team could add two Type-A free agents that rank higher than Dunn, and the Nationals would end up with a 3rd round pick. Same thing is true for the teams that finish with one of the 15 worst records, so while unlikely if the Cubs go on a spending spree the Nationals could have a 4th round pick as compensation for Dunn.
Yes they would still get a supplemental 1st round pick, but that kind of compensation pales in comparison to what they could have potentially gotten in the trade market (not to mention the fact the Nationals would have to spend millions of dollars to sign these players). Draft pick compensation is nice and all and beneficial to rebuilding, but as the Nationals showed this year, extra picks aren’t necessary to having a top draft. Even taking Bryce Harper out of the equation, the Nationals had a good draft getting three young quality pitchers in Sammy Solis, A.J. Cole, and Robbie Ray (a long with a few other talents). Sure it will be nice to have a few extra picks, but it won’t increase the talent pool that much overall, as now they might not spend as much on later picks. All-in-all compensation picks are exactly what they were intended to be, a consolation prize but one that should have had zero impact on the Nationals decision to trade Dunn (though they do increase his trade value, since a contender trading for him can get some talent back).
Yes there are some decent bats on the free agent market who can replace some of Dunn’s production and who might be better fielders (maybe not all of them). But with the exception of Paul Konerko (and even he isn’t as good or consistent as Dunn), none of these guys (Adam LaRoche, Aubrey Huff, Carlos Pena) offer the true middle of the order hitter the Nationals are looking for or are the box office sensation that Dunn is. Now maybe it could have made sense if they had gotten some prospects in return for a Dunn deal, that helped them at other positions (all three OF spots, starting rotation etc.).
Simulate the 2016 Draft with Trades!
But to just replace Dunn with Pena or LaRoche won’t do the trick, and will only save the Nationals money. While thats nice it isn’t exactly a deep free agent crop to invest in. Even if they sign Werth and say LaRoche and lose Dunn, the Nats offense won’t really improve to the point of contention. Sure their defense will be better, but if their offense ranks 20th in both OBP and Slug %, where will it rank without him? Sure Willingham will be back from injury, but the Nats were ranking in the 20’s even when he was healthy. I just don’t see how there is a lateral or positive move out there by not signing Dunn.
While I realize it is a growing possibility that Dunn could be gone when free agency begins, I hope the Nationals reconsider (or build a time machine to go back to the trade deadline). Sure it might have killed some (of the little) Nationals fan base, but at least they would be building for the future. If they don’t end up resigning him, I hope the team will make the most out of a tough situation and add the money necessary to the draft budget to sign two additional young talents. Time will tell if the Nationals made the right move in this situation, but I have to tell you as a Nationals fan I worry that it will be a bad offseason.