He and the Reds have agreed to a multiyear deal in which Dunn's two remaining arbitration years are bought out for $18m, with a $13m option for 2008. Reds fans are liking the new GM already.
A lot of statheads and BP readers have been known to fall all over themselves when talking about Dunn, a 26 year old who hits 40 homers and walks 100 times a year, and being one myself, it's easy to understand why. The guy has 158 bombs and a career OPS of .901 before turning 27, and that's terrific. It's just that he also has some flaws that tend to be glossed over by the "analytical public," flaws that make him a worse player than you'd think by simply glancing at his age and raw numbers.
The first problem - and this one's pretty obvious - is that Dunn has spent his entire career playing in a hitter's environment. Over the last three years, the Great American Ballpark has a 116 HR factor, ranking it fifth in baseball, behind Coors, US Cellular, Citizen's Bank, and Ameriquest (100 is average, 101+ is favorable to hitters). The HR factor for left-handed hitters is 117, so clearly, this is a good place for Dunn to be playing. The benefits of calling Cincinatti home are evident in Dunn's splits, where his career road OPS is down 99 points from where it is at home (and down 133 points from where it is in the GAB). Since 2003, Dunn has hit .230/.362/.474 on the road, and while that's a good line, it makes him more Jay Buhner and less Manny Ramirez. Strike one.
The second issue is that, while Dunn is still young, he is the textbook definition of a guy with old player skills - little speed, tons of walks, tons of strikeouts, good power, and bad defense. Bill James (and dozens of other analysts) have written about this type of player at some length, concluding that they tend to have limited growth potential and earlier, more precipitous declines. Think Ben Grieve. The guys you usually see burst onto the scene in their age 26-29 seasons are ones who're still realizing previously untapped potential, putting all of their tools to use. With someone like Dunn, he's already maximizing everything he's got, so he can't really go much higher. What you see is what you get until the decline phase begins. Strike two.
This brings us to the matter of Dunn's outfield defense. In short, it sucks. It's not quite Manny Ramirez or Ken Griffey Jr. bad, but it was lousy enough to force the Reds into moving Dunn to first base full-time before turning 27 (preliminary evidence suggests that he still sucks, even with the change in position). While he may be able to survive at first base in the same way that Richie Sexson has gotten by despite a poor performance record, Dunn is really in over his head when forced to play the field, costing his team at least 5-10 runs a year. He doesn't afford the Reds any real flexibility, and having a guy tied into the left-most end of the defensive spectrum at a young age on a developing team is going to make it that much more difficult to build around him. This says nothing of the fact that Dunn's bat looked better among other corner outfielders than it does among other first basemen. Dunn really needs to be DH'ing for someone in a hitter's park by the time he's 30. Strike three.
Adam Dunn is a reasonably good baseball player, a guy whose bat makes up for his poor defense. In a world that deems Alfonso Soriano worthy of making $10m in arbitration, Dunn's $10.5m 2007 salary doesn't look that bad. The problem is that he's not as good as a lot of people think he is, and with his skillset, he's not likely to get much better with age. In a park that's friendly to left-handed hitters like the GAB, he's a nice guy to have around, but at the same time I don't think the Reds can afford to have this much money tied up in a guy with limited upside, so they might be better off exploring the trade market now that he's essentially locked up for three years. It's not going to happen, but I have to think that it'd probably be in their best interests.