Olney’s Defense of Dunn

Buster Olney had this to say about keeping Adam Dunn around, and I can’t say I disagree

The Nationals are on the fence about what to do with Adam Dunn, who has 23 homers, 61 RBIs, and an OPS of .935. Sources say they could offer him a contract before the deadline, and if they can’t reach an agreement, they might trade him.

The view from here: The Nationals should put a competitive three-year offer on the table and be prepared to go to four years in their proposal, because the alternative for them is something they should avoid — a lineup without Dunn or someone like him. Look, Dunn is a subpar defensive player, but the Nationals’ lineup without Dunn is woefully thin, and the Nationals are not even close to the point where free agents want to go.

The Nationals are concerned about whether Dunn’s body would hold up through the duration of a three- or four-year deal. But an astute AL evaluator made this point: What Dunn does well — hit homers — is gaining more value as time goes on, and the two skills that last the longest in aging players like Dunn are the ability to generate on-base percentage and power. In other words, even if Dunn regresses defensively to the point that the Nationals feel compelled to trade him after a couple of years, he’ll probably still be hitting homers and drawing walks in 2013, and will remain attractive to AL teams at age 33 and 34. He’ll maintain some level of value.

The point is that if you trade Dunn, who are you going to get to replace him? Not now, but in the next few years. If you are a believer that the Nats can contend in the next couple of seasons,  then the lineup has to be better than just Zimmerman and a couple of others that hit once in a while. And Dunn is the guy that fits in there well. The power is just not coming from anywhere else. Meanwhile, if you trade him for a prospect pitcher, it may not help the cause that much. And a prospect hitter is a possibility, but he won’t hit like Dunn, so he better play some spectacular middle infield or 1B or CF on top of hitting.

As this trade talks continues, the White Sox are rumored to be willing to part with, Dan Hudson and Dayan Viciedo, don’t impress me very much. Hudson, according to Baseball Prospectus, is the Tigers #1 prospect. But they say that, “Even with Hudson’s tremendous growth in 2009, some scouts don’t see room for much more, seeing him as a good third starter at best. Others think he’d be even better as a late-inning reliever.” As for Viciedo, they say “Underneath the struggles and the fat, many scouts do see a potential star. To be fair, others completely destroyed him in their reports, with one referring to Viciedo as a ‘complete bust.’” Neither of those guys seems worth it to me, at least not if the alternative is three years of Adam Dunn. Or maybe even 4 years.

Then again, maybe your perspective is that this team is more than 3 years away from contending. Then you should be talking about trading Dunn and Willingham. But you should be talking about trading Zimmerman as well, because he’s only signed through 2013.

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