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DUNN? YES? NO? MAYBE

[October 3rd] -- Phil Wood had an interesting article in the Examiner on Tuesday. He referenced the continuing rumor/hope/demand that Jim Bowden should once again try to pick the pockets of the Cincinnati Reds and pry loose Adam Dunn from the Reds. He also thinks that bringing back former National Brad Wilkerson is a possibility as well.

Let's consider Dunn first. Before even considering the "how" of bringing Dunn to Washington, the question that needs to be asked is "Where do we play him?" Austin Kearns isn't going anywhere and his good second half (11 homers, 44 RBI's) indicates that there is no reason that he won't hit .270-25-85 in the new small park. So right is set. Jim Bowden didn't trade for Wily Mo Pena to keep him on the bench, and he has no trade value at this point. He had a good six weeks with the Nationals (.293-8-22 in 133 at-bats, or .293-36-93 over an entire season), and his career stats suggest that his *hiccup* in Boston was an anomaly. In 2004, his closest to a full major league season (110 games), he would have hit 40 homers and drove in 100+ runs in 162 games. So I think it's safe to say that Pena will give the Nationals, at the least, .270-30-90, with .289-40-110 possible.

That leaves center field open. Kearns has played 60 games in center in his career with Pena having played 136 - though most of those came earlier in his career when he was "slimmer" (as if he was ever slim). Dunn can't play center, and 93% of his outfield starts have been in left. His arm just isn't strong enough to play right.

So should the Nationals trade for Dunn, the team would have (besides the entire starting Reds' outfield in 2004) three corner outfielders capable of hitting a combined 105 homers. Dunn won't replace Pena, he's too inexpensive not to play everyday. And Dunn won't replace Kearns, because the team loves him and, in spite of what I've said all year, he has the talent to be a top-notched corner outfielder for the next decade.

So what could the team do with Dunn? Would they even want him?

I have to believe that if Adam Dunn becomes a National, he's going to play first base. Though he never played a game at first in the minors, he has played there 108 times with the Reds, committing 12 errors (.986). By comparison, Dmitri Young made 9 errors (.990) in about the same number of games in 2007. So Dunn would be about the same as Nick Johnson at his worst (2006: 15 errors, .988) and nowhere near Johnson at his best (2005: 5 errors, .996).

Would Dunn's 40 homers and 120 RBI's make up for his 15 or so errors when compared to say Nick Johnson's .285-20-85 and his 5-9 miscues? Batting cleanup, Dunn is going to drive in 25-40 more runs than Nick will, more than making up for the 10 or so runs his errors may allow to score (though the other infielders will have more errors on throws that Johnson would have fielded cleanly).

But more importantly, having Dunn in the Nationals' lineup is more than just Dunn himself. Look what the lineup could do with him there:

#3: Zimmerman - .285-28-110

#4: Dunn - .270-40-120

#5: Pena - .275-35-95

#6: Kearns - .270-25-80

By himself, Dunn would add one more very needed bat to the lineup. But in total, when Ryan Zimmerman, Wily Mo Pena and Austin Kearns is added, the Nationals suddenly have one of the most potent 3#-#6 batters in the National League. The four players could drive in 405 runs, which isn't much less than the entire 2007 Nationals.

I guess the important question is this: "What's it going to cost to bring Adam Dunn to Washington?" Firstly, it's going to cost mucho dinero. The Reds don't want Dunn at his $13 million option price, but neither do they want to decline the option and just let him walk. So the Reds are going to pick up the option and then trade him. The Nationals are willing to pay the $13 million - assuming that they can work out a long-term deal. The Reds will probably want a starting player and one or two prospects. The Nats will likely lose one of the Vermont Lakemonsters' super-duper pitching prospects, and a so-so prospect (Kory Casto, Josh Whitesell) and a starting player, perhaps Ryan Church. We also might have to overpay, throwing in something extra to make up for the perceived wrong-doing by the Nats in the Kearns/Lopez trade.

My guess is this: The Nats do this deal in a heartbeat and - for the time being at least - put him at first. If Pena fails, or someone gets hurt, then Dunn goes back to the outfield. Dmitri Young either becomes a very expensive spare part or the Nationals trade him to an American League team where his $5.5 million/2 year deal makes more fiscal sense. And Nick? I don't know. He's missed an entire year, and if you look back over baseball history, players tend not to do very well that first year after returning from a season-losing injury. Until he proves me wrong, I just can't count on Johnson, one of my favorite players.

If Church gets traded, Nook Logan won't start in center. He's a great 4th outfielder but he has proven he just isn't a starter.

So what about Brad Wilkerson? In 101 games, Brad hit .239-20-61 after suffering injuries for a second straight season in Texas. Over 162 games, he would have hit 30 homers and 90 RBI's. The last time he played center on a regular basis was in 2005 with the Nationals when he played 92 games there, committing 3 errors (.988).

The Nationals could bring Wilkerson in for next-to-nothing - if they want to. He would play steady defense and provide a low batting average with some pop, say, .250-20-70. In other words, Ryan Church type numbers, but for a lot more than Church would cost.

If the Nationals could keep Church and get Dunn, then Pena-Church-Kearns would be a superb outfield. If not, Wilkerson would not be a bad thing in center. Certainly, a healthy and happy Wilkerson could again hit 30 homers as he did for the Expos, so he does have some upside.

Of course, the Reds may never again deal with Jim Bowden. Or they might. It's just too early to tell. However, Kearns likes playing in D.C., he's best friends with Dunn, and Dunn has suggested once or twice that again playing with his friend would be a good thing.

Stay tuned.


Comments:
Dunn? He's going to cost $13 million at least. Sign him and there will be nothing left for the other needs. Is it worth it?
 
Stan thre around $30 million as the available dollars this winter. By his numbers, there would still be at least $17 million for more talent. Yes, Dunn is worth it. That said, another non-contact slugger scares the crap out of me.
 
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