Nationals Baseball: Dunn is done?

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Dunn is done?

So says Tom Boswell, though mainly through conjecture rather than any facts. He feels the Nats are leaning so heavily toward good defense that they'll kick Dunn to the curb next year. In his place would be a short year deal for a good field but aging player, like Derek Lee (could bounce back) or Carlos Pena (power and patience make it worthwhile... if he can hit over .220). If not those guys, then there's always Lyle Overbay right?

Somehow the blame for this goes in part to "stat nerds" and "stat guys", which is funny because these are the same people that have been on Dunn's side for most of his career. They've been the ones telling people that Dunn is one of the best offensive players in the game, that the .250 average doesn't matter when the guy walks 100+ times and hits 40 homers.

It's easy to feel for Adam, because he paints himself very well as someone who only wants to be secure.

Then, he added later: "I'm sick of two-year contracts. It's the same every year [with mid-season trade rumors]. I think I've proved I deserve more than that."
Of course it's not that simple. He doesn't just not want a two year deal. He wants a four year deal on his terms. He wants to play first base and get paid a ton. That's not going to happen. It's not baseball's fault that he signed a 2 year deal (with a club option for a 3rd) so he could stay with the Reds even though he was a premier slugging 25 year old a year from free agency. It's not baseball's fault that right before his next free agent chance he failed to hit over .240 2 out of 3 years and then played terrible defense for a Diamondbacks team that faded from the playoff hunt. (though I think his blame in their fade was exaggerated). It's not baseball's fault that defense is valued to the point now where he's only going to get a 4 year deal if he agrees to be a DH or accepts that his defense knocks down his overall dollar value when compared to other sluggers.

Poor decisions and circumstances led to the last 2 short contracts. He wants to avoid another one, preferably with the Nats. Unlike Boswell, I think he can do it but it will take some compromise from Adam. He can't get everything he wants no matter how many balls he knocks over the fence.


Anonymous said...

Harper - you've focused here on the Dunn side here, which I think you're right about. To me, though the more interesting part is the Nats side. Presume for a minute that Lee or Pena can actually be had more cheaply than Dunn. What's the marginal dropoff? Dunn will be 31, and Pena and Lee will both be significantly older. I'm not sure i understand the logic behind betting on a bounce-back year from a 33 year old or a 35 year-old ahead of betting on Dunn's inevitable decline beginning later, unless they're getting a truly massive discount along the lines of the 1-year, $10m incentive-based deal. If Boz's numbers are right, and they could have Dunn for 3/40, I don't understand why both sides wouldn't sign that. It's not like Marrero or anybody else is screaming "clear top tier 1b prospect" right now.

Besides that, most of Boz's arguments about how the "stats nerds" are driving Dunn away seems to be based on the question of whether better 1b defense would make Desmond look better (based on his error total!). 1. Real stats nerds know better than to look at error totals, and 2. Desmond's current negative UZR doesn't say "rangy shortstop" it says "out-of-place 2b-man." Besides that, that whole argument seems to be massively overvaluing those few (15? 20? 30?) outs that a better "receiver" at 1b might save over Dunn over the course of the season. I think the argument is right on theory but wrong on specifics - the whole argument sort of feels like saying "Well, we shouldn't use Storen as a closer, because he really has a lousy wOBA when batting in high-leverage situations."

Ultimately, this seems like one of two things from Boz: 1. a premature spin on why they didn't sign Dunn away from the obvious "cheap" reason, or 2. a ploy by Boz or the Nats to put pressure on Dunn and his agent. I just don't understand how going from a top-ten 1B in terms of both WAR and wOBA and replacing them with a 33-year-old or 35-year-old comeback player of the year candidate is a move in the right direction.

Donald said...

To me, I think the question is who do the Nats want at 1B in 2013 -- the year they hope to be full on competing for the world series. I don't think the answer is Dunn but I don't know who takes his place. If they believe it's one of their prospects (Marrero or Tyler Moore) they may be hoping to get them up by 2012, which means they only need a 1B for next year. If they hope to buy a FA, they probably want to save their money and just plug the gap next year with Morse or Willingham in hopes better prospects become available in 2012. Clearly, Lee or Pena aren't the answer for 2013 any more than Dunn. In either case, I don't think they want Dunn for more than 1-2 years, which is probably the stumbling block.

Harper said...

Anon - I think the gamble for the Nats is not in Dunn's offensive decline, but in the variability of year to year defensive stats. It's because Dunn is having an oddly average defensive year that his WAR is so high. Last year - with similar offensive numbers - his WAR was 1.2, same as Lee or Pena this year (when both are having the worst years of their career). That's the question they are asking themselves - do they think Dunn can stabilize as average at 1st. If not they can get the same overall production at a better value with another player (though only over the course of a long deal - year to year who knows?)

The variability of defensive stats also should give pause to the "move Desmond" crowd. Let's see if he's still below average next year before deciding he can't hack it.

Donald - That's about right. Every team would rather go year to year with players that they aren't very sure are going to preform well (those they want to sign early to below market deals). Dunn seemingly cries out even more for s short deal because his fielding could force him off the field at any minutre or he could just collapse overnight as sluggers often do.

Personally I think his age and consistency mean a collapse is unlikely - even 3 years out. It therefore must be the defense that's driving this. he was terrible in 09. If he's terrible in 11 and worse in 12... the Nats don't want to be in that position.

Donald said...

Question -- If you knew that Dunn would perform identically in 2013 as he did this year, both offensively and defensively, would you want him as your starting 1B? If yes, then you're right about the decision being a gamble but probably worth the risk. It's almost inconceivable that he'll be performing significantly better, so if the answer is no, I don't think they sign him for more than 1-2 years under any circumstances. Unfortunately, I don't think he agrees to that short a contract.

Harper said...

Yes. Yes I would. He's pretty much the 5th most useful first baseman in the NL. and there's a fair gap between him and the next guy. Plus the power the Nats will get from other sources not named Zimm is questionable and a team needs some power.

bdrube said...

Harper - I think you're right about the defense being the driving factor here. The Nats have been a joke defensively the past two years and I'm sure management is well sick of it. They have a young pitching staff that needs better defensive support. And if you accept that they are going to take their lumps with errors as Desmond and Espinosa develop the improvement has to come from somewhere.

I also think there is something to the Tyler Moore/Marrero thing. They now have two potential 1B prospects who might be only a year or so away. That means whoever they sign to play 1B next year is probably looking at only a two year deal.

Donald said...

What are the odds they are planning on going all out for Adrian Gonzalez when he becomes available at the end of next year?

Harper said...

bdrube - I think fans as stretching a bit on Moore. If a 23 year old can't rock A-ball pitching he should be out of baseball. Marrero (21 and in AA) is the only one who should be influencing a Dunn decision. Betting on young guys is always risky (Birds in the bush that they are) but if they believe in him then Dunn on a 3-year deal would be blocking him.

Donald - I guess it's possible (assuming Marrero flounders a bit) but it'll be a Teixeira situation all over again.