After being spurned by Mark Teixiera, the Nationals apparently convinced their second-favorite free agent choice, OF/1B Adam Dunn, to come to Washington (Nationals Journal), proving me wrong. I think I am glad to be wrong!
Dunn, who was drafted by GM Jim Bowden for Cincinnati back in 1998, reportedly signed a 2 year, $10 million deal. Dunn had been seeking more, but aside from Teixiera, it has been a down market for free agents. Thomas Boswell of The Post, who has been saying for throughout the offseason that this is an excellent buyers market , looks fairly smart right now. Boswell suggested, to some skepticism from the Nats fanbase, that the team was waiting for the free market to “come to them.” At least in the case of Dunn, Boswell appears to be right on the money. Bos is probably apoplectic right now, I cannot wait to read his column on the subject.
I like this deal. I am not as sold on Dunn as say, Boswell, but I think the thought of two seasons of the slugger in the lineup is a happy one for me. This short contract is designed to capture Dunn in his prime without being bogged down by his inevitable decline. I don’t think Dunn is someone you want to build your franchise around, but as a stopgap and perhaps more, he is good to have around. His two seasons here should make the lineup more formidable and more exciting for fans without sacrificing the long-term. Depending on how he does and how the Nats do, he could be around for longer than two years or he could be traded at the deadline on July 31, 2010. Either way, signing him seems fairly low-risk for the Nats.
The happiest person from this whole deal might be 3B Ryan Zimmerman. The “face of franchise” now has some protection behind him in the batting order for the first time since his rookie year when Alphonso Soriano had his epic one season stay in D.C. This should help Zimmerman get better numbers which can only help his cause heading into contract negotiations. Zimmerman is said to be friends with Dunn as well. Dunn is very good friends with once-and-future teammate Austin Kearns. The two were drafted by the Reds with Kearns going first and Dunn second.
Kearns is a likely casualty of Dunn’s arrival though. In the outfield, Kearns had an injury-plagued 2008 in which he hit .217. In center, Lastings Milledge had a decent 2008, but more is expected of him as he continues to develop. Will his development continue to be in a Nationals uniform? Elijah Dukes showed flashes of brillance last year, but his troubled off-the-field life looms over him and the team like a thunderhead. If he can stay out of trouble, he could be a very good player. Last season, he was the most exciting Nats batter. Josh Willingham, acquired from Florida in the offseason is a 20-homer type who can also play first base. Then there is Wily Mo Pena, a favorite of Bowden for reasons unknown to anyone else. One would think Pena is the most expendable of the outfielder surplus, but with Bowden, you never can tell. I don’t think the Nats can really get much in trade for some of these players, especially Kearns whose big contract likely keeps him in D.C. What becomes of Kory Casto is to be determined, but it is safe to say that if he makes the majors on a regular basis it won’t be in a Nationals uniform. Willie Harris seems to be set as the team super-sub. Justin Maxwell, Chris Marrero get some more time to play in the minors too, though they probably would have anyway.
At first, oft-injured Nick Johnson is the incumbent, but after playing only a few dozen games last following missing all of 2007, he is not considered reliable. Diabetic Dmitri Young celebrated his 2007 Comeback Player of the Year award by being too fat to play for most of last year.
It is good to see the Lerners actually opened up their wallet. They have been accused of being cheap for some time now and frankly, they needed to prove to Washington they would spend money. Another season of 100 loses is unacceptable given the current climate in D.C. This creates a little buzz going into spring training and the season, something they really need. Wins are more important though and Dunn or not, I don’t think this was going to be a 100 loss team again. Now they might challenge for .500 — yes, Dunn could push them over the hump to mediocrity! As for the buzz though, I mentioned this to a co-worker and immediately he expressed interest in seeing the Nats more often.
Reports that Bowden has replaced “pitching, pitching, pitching ” wiht “outfielders, outfielders, outfielders” are unfounded. He did succeed in bringing yet another former Red (Fire Jim Bowden).
Lastly, I wonder what number Dunn will wear. He wore #44 in Cincy, but that number is taken by Milledge and I don’t see him giving it up. I could see #33 being of interest since it was D.C.’s last great slugger (excluding Soriano) Frank Howard‘s number, but the Nats have yet to issue it. I would think they would be disinclined to do so, particularly if they hire Howard like I have suggested.
The official announcement and press conference is tomorrow. I’ll try to get tomorrow morning’s links up early too.