Zuckerman: Who's In The Running For Dunn?

Zuckerman: Who's In The Running For Dunn?
December 1, 2010, 9:04 pm
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Wednesday, December 1, 2010, 4:03 p.m.
By Mark Zuckerman


Despite his stated preference to remain in Washington, Adam Dunn has insisted all along he would be foolish not to test the market this winter and see what kind of contract he could command as one of baseball's top free agents.

Nearly one month into the offseason, though, the market for the 31-year-old slugger remains unclear. The Nationals have had a three-year offer on the table since midsummer, but Dunn (who hit 38 homers each of the last two seasons with D.C.) has been seeking a four-year deal. To date, no club has acknowledged making a four-year offer to him.

Complicating matters is Dunn's stated desire not to be a designated hitter at this stage of his career. Most American League general managers view him as a below-average first baseman and left fielder and would sign him only if he served primarily as a DH.

After a quiet November, the Dunn Derby may be about to get into full swing. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the Oakland Athletics met with Dunn at his Houston home yesterday, throwing their name into the mix. (UPDATE AT 4:37 P.M. -- The Chronicle now says that report was false and the A's did not meet with Dunn yesterday.) Several more clubs figure to speak to Dunn's agent, Greg Genske, at next week's Winter Meetings in Orlando.

A look at some of the teams interested in acquiring (or in the Nationals' case, retaining) Dunn...

Though there is some interest in bringing Dunn back, GM Mike Rizzo will only do so on his terms (no more than three years). If Dunn doesn't return, the Nationals will turn their attention to a couple of other free agent first basemen who aren't as offensively gifted but do field the position better: Carlos Pena and Adam LaRoche. The Nats also would receive two 2011 draft picks as compensation for losing Dunn, a Type A free agent.

GM Kenny Williams aggressively pursued Dunn at the July trade deadline but wouldn't relent to Rizzo's demands for at least two top-tier prospects in return. The White Sox, though, remain interested in acquiring Dunn. First, though, they must figure out if they're re-signing veteran first baseman Paul Konerko. If Konerko (a four-time All-Star who finished fifth in the AL MVP race this year) returns, Chicago would only be interested in Dunn as a DH. (Even then, the club would need to have enough money left over to sign Dunn.) If Konerko leaves, the White Sox would need a new first baseman, and Dunn would be a prime target.

The A's aren't generally big players in the free agent market, but Dunn is exactly the kind of player GM Billy Beane covets (a power hitter with a high on-base percentage). So the report of yesterday's meeting between the two sides isn't a huge shock. Whether an Oakland franchise that had the third-smallest Opening Day 2010 payroll (51.6 million) is willing to commit 12 million to 15 million for each of the next three or four years to acquire Dunn remains to be seen. (UPDATE AT 4:37 P.M. -- The San Francisco Chronicle now says its initial report was false and the A's didn't meet with Dunn yesterday.)

The Cubs need a first baseman after trading veteran Derrek Lee to Atlanta late last season. And Dunn would have the potential to put up some gargantuan power numbers at the compressed, friendly confines of Wrigley Field. But Chicago's new owner, Tom Ricketts, has made it pretty clear he doesn't intend to add much payroll this winter. Dunn probably would cost too much.

The AL champs can make an interesting case for signing Dunn, a Texas native who probably would be intrigued to play close to home. They used a revolving door of first basemen this season, with rookie Mitch Moreland ultimately taking over during the playoffs. Designated hitter Vladimir Guerrero, meanwhile, is a free agent and may not return after struggling in the postseason.

The Tigers figured to be one of Dunn's top pursuers this winter. But after signing catcherDH Victor Martinez to a four-year, 50 million contract last week, Detroit doesn't appear to be in the mix anymore. Miguel Cabrera is already entrenched at first base. Dunn would have to be used as at least a part-time left fielder, and that doesn't seem to be a strong possibility.

Could the team right up the road actually wind up snagging away Washington's big slugger? It's not out of the question. The Orioles are intent on adding at least one and maybe two big bats at the corner infield positions this winter. Their top targets appear to be Konerko at first base and Adrian Beltre at third base, but each player is getting plenty of interest around the sport. Sources close to Andy MacPhail say the Baltimore GM may feel pressure to make a "big splash" and Dunn could fit that bill.