Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Adam Dunn: The Debate Continues

The Oriole Way was also inspired by our Twitter conversation and posted his analysis about free agent 1B Adam Dunn. But while my analysis took a look at Dunn's durability and the risk of signing him to a 4-year deal, TOW went deeper.

(This is why I love blogging; the chance to take an argument deeper and stretch out with it...could never do this on message boards...)

Now, he has forced me to go deeper to counter his argument in more detail.

Addressing his objections one by one:

1) He will cost the O's their second round draft pick.

Of all the free agent bats available, Adam Dunn is, by far, the best bat out there. He is a Hall of Fame caliber hitter and still in his prime. You don't get a chance to acquire a special bat like that everyday. (Manny Ramirez, Jim Thome, etc, are all at the end of their careers.)

Any other big bat that the O's would or could go after this offseason would cost them prospects via trade and their worth would be more than a 2nd round pick. For example, getting Adrian Gonzalez from the Padres could require 3-4 top players/prospects. One of them would certainly have to be Adam Jones or Brian Matusz. By contrast, a 2nd round pick for Dunn seems a small price to pay.

Yes, the 2011 draft will be deep but the loss of that second round pick can balanced by spending more in the later rounds. Whether the team decides to spend money in the draft or not will have little to do with having or not having a second round pick.

Not to mention, the other good first baseman out there (Paul Konerko, Derrek Lee) are Type A free agents and may cost Baltimore a draft pick anyway.

2) There are lots of other, cheaper options for first base.

This is true. While none of the other options are anything close to Dunn as a hitter, there are guys who could come cheaper and for shorter contracts.

I would be more open to this argument if there was an heir apparent in the Baltimore farm system to play first base. If there was a top prospect who could play first, I would advocate signing Konerko, Lee or a lesser stopgap. But the Orioles best first baseman in the minors is Brandon Snyder who didn't show much at AAA in 2010 (or 2009 for that matter) and in the best case scenario is probably more Brian Daubach than Kevin Youkilis.

Dunn would block nobody and the Orioles have plenty of money to spend. He would fill a gaping hole for the foreseeable future.

3) He's been worth $15 million or more exactly once in the past six seasons.

This is probably the point on which I will concede. Perhaps $15 million is not market value for Dunn's services. My original calculations called for a contract for Dunn of 4 years worth $13-14 million per season. That's probably closer to his value but in my final calculations I rounded up to $15 million to account for extra money to lure him to the AL and to another losing club. But I would go $13 mil, probably up to $14 mil, per season to bring him in.

4) His "old player" skills and body type make me think he's susceptible to rapid decline.

And in his post, he links "rapid" to a picture of Travis Hafner and "decline" links to a picture of Mo Vaughn.

Here are those pics juxtaposed with Dunn:

Here's why the comps don't work in my mind.

Hafner does not have the same resume that Dunn had at the same age. Hafner certainly had three off-the-chart seasons but Dunn has been fairly consistent for his 10-year career.

Vaughn was only 6'1". And he got FAT. Different body type, no comparison.

Dunn is not fat. He may not be the best conditioned player in the league but his frame is enormous. It's meant to carry a bit a weight. Really, there are no body type comparisons for Dunn, at least not with his abilities. There is really no reason to believe that he will start declining before he hits 35.

Yesterday, I compared him to players with the big build and the big resume. I feel more comfortable with those comps than Hafner or Vaughn.

5) His 2010 season showed a decline in walk rate and a rise in his strikeout rate, which combined for a very large increase in his K/BB ratio.

This is true. But one year does not a trend make, good or bad. That blip does not scare me off.

TOW made the opposite argument against Luke Scott repeating his 2010 numbers because it was a one season anomaly. Similarly, I doubt that Dunn will repeat the his anomaly from 2010 in 2011. He will be 31, not 36.

More points:

"I think it goes without saying that Dunn's value lies entirely in his bat."

True. But that's enough. And I don't think he hurts you all that much on defense as a first baseman and that's the best you can hope for.

"This Orioles club isn't yet ready to contend..."

This is also true. But I believe that the Orioles will be ready to contend at some point over the next four seasons. Dunn can be a part of that.

While I concede the money may be a bit high, I still think a 4-year deal of $13-14 million per season is fair for Dunn's services. Again, Dunn has a Hall of Fame caliber bat and will only be 31 next season! He compares favorably to Reggie Jackson, Harmon Killebrew, Sammy Sosa, Ralph Kiner and Jim Thome through his age 30 season. It would be a shame if the Orioles are kicking themselves in 2013 because they didn't fill a huge need for a first baseman and an impact bat for a relatively affordable and (short term) price.

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