As with so many of my posts, this one is born out of a comment here on the blog or by a Twitter follower. This time, it's from The Oriole Way. In response to my tweet advocating a 4-year contract offer from the Orioles to Adam Dunn, he had this to say:
4 years for Dunn after the worst K% and BB% of his career? That body looks capable of rapid decline. 3 years is plenty risky.
Dunn was only 30 this past season and I felt that signing him through age 34 is not all that risky. But I really didn't know how players of Dunn's body type and skill set had aged in the past. Dunn is huge, listed in Baseball Reference as 6' 6" and 285 lbs. As a rough cut, I decided to use the Baseball-Reference.com Play Index to take a look at players who were at least 6' 2" and 240 lbs. Also, the players had to have hit 175 homers prior to their age 31 season. That gives us the following list:
From here, I eliminated Ryan Howard and Troy Glaus since they have yet to play their age 34 seasons yet. I also eliminated Scott Rolen since third basemen are just plain different from corner outfielders or 1B/DH types. That leaves us with seven players to help track Dunn's trajectory. Here are their stats from their age 31-34 seasons:
Height Weight OPS OPS+ HR Frank Howard 6'7" 255 .919 166 162 Jim Thome 6'3" 250 .982 155 148 Jason Giambi 6'3" 240 .945 150 126 Carlos Delgado 6'3" 245 .957 146 145 Frank Thomas 6'5" 240 .926 135 90 Derrek Lee 6'5" 245 .869 121 96 Carlos Lee 6'2" 265 .833 119 110
The first thing I noticed is that while all these guys are big, none are quite as hulking as Adam Dunn. (Also, how big must Frank Howard have seemed back in the 60's?)
Second, only Frank Thomas (20 games in 2001) and Carlos Lee (115 games in 2008) missed significant time due to injury during this span.
How is the decline overall? A comparison of OPS+ up to age 30 and OPS+ from age 31-34.
OPS+ OPS+ Up to age 30 31-34 Howard 131 166 Thome 147 155 Giambi 148 150 Delgado 140 146 Thomas 174 135 D. Lee 123 121 C. Lee 119 119
Surprisingly, even to me, we have 4 increases in OPS+. Carlos Lee held steady, his was who you thought he was (a power hitter with poor on base skills). Derrek Lee's decline is almost negligible and although Frank Thomas' performance fell drastically, it was still at very good levels since his prior performance was utterly off the charts.
Why is this? Do these bigger guys take longer to grow into their bodies? Maybe. But a big guy seems (based on this limited information) to be at least as likely to get better in his early 30's as he is to decline. He is at least a pretty good bet to hold serve.
Based on this, you could expect Adam Dunn to continue to be the .900 OPS, 130 OPS+ type of player that he has been to this point in his career.
So I stand by it. A four year deal seems a good bet to me.