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Three Guys Who Agree On Everything: Adam Dunn

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The Mariners have this funny way of making us think about the future, since the present's no good. And when we think about the Mariners in the future, we try to make them decent, as that's pretty much the only time we get to act optimistic. Different people have different ideas of how to go about improving the team. Here, Matthew, Graham, and I issue a preemptive strike against one idea that's certain to come up time and time again as we approach the offseason. Too early, you say? It wouldn't be preemptive if it weren't. Onward.

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Should the Mariners consider signing Adam Dunn next winter?

Graham: Should they consider signing him? Of course they should. He's a big name free agent and it's their job to give him some thought. One would hope it would immediately become pretty obvious that Dunn would be a poor fit here once any serious analysis were undertaken - although a left handed power bat would play well in Seattle, Dunn's defence is an absolute mess and he'll be paid like a superstar when he's really just about average in left field once his glove is factored into things. He's one of the few players in the big leagues less capable in the field than Raul Ibanez, which is saying something.

The problem is the Mariners are bound to get sucked a bidding war on Dunn if they do give him any serious consideration. Outfield defence is not a priority for the team, as evidenced by Mike Morse ever having played there, they have a fetish (and rightly so) for left-handed power in Safeco Field, they like RBIs, they like good guys (and although I have done zero research to back this up, my brain tells me Dunn's known as a pretty good dude in the clubhouse), they're completely ignorant of player aging curves for different skillsets, etc. This does not bode well, and Sabean is unlikely to save us from ourselves this time.

Basically, a better front office than ours looks seriously at Dunn and realises that he isn't going to be worth the money, especially not as an outfielder. The Mariners are just as likely to start drooling and throwing money at him as to do the right thing here. So I think a good team should/would consider him, but I hope our FO completely forgets that he exists.

Matthew: The team should consider signing everyone; that's their job, or at least that's what it should be, but as Graham said, Dunn is the sort of player who appears to fit well but in actuality does not.

He defense is bad no matter where you stick him and if you hide that by putting him at DH, you're still losing 10 runs for the opportunity cost. It's never a good idea to invest a lot of years and dollars into players that have only one or two skills. Dunn has plus power and possibly has good discipline. I'm not even sure about that because how many of his walks are simply pitchers avoiding him and how many are the result of a good batting eye? That would take some video scouting to get a read on.

Jeff: The Mariners should consider signing Adam Dunn. They should not actually sign Adam Dunn. In addition to what you guys already said, I feel obligated to point out that Dunn pretty much has the classic combination of old player skills. Low average, lots of walks, lots of strikeouts, lots of power. This is the guy that Ben Grieve was supposed to be. And as I think we've all come to understand, old player skills tend to decline pretty quick, relative to the average player pool. So it's likely that Dunn's offense will be worse in 2009 than it was in 2008, worse in 2010 than it was in 2009, worse in 2011 than it was in 2010, and so forth. That's not something you like to hear about a player who's going to command a long-term contract. Adam Dunn's peak is behind him.

As for his defense...have you ever tossed the ball around with a friend on the beach? Have you ever missed the ball and had to go get it in the ocean? You sprint after it with all your energy, but you're limited by both the wet sand and the foot or three of water, so while you never really lose sight of the ball, and while it's not in danger of drifting away, it still takes forever to get there.

Dunn has prodigious left-handed power that would work rather well at Safeco, but that and taking pitches are his only skills. You can't put him in the outfield or he'll slaughter you. You can't put him at first base or he'll slaughter you to a slightly lesser degree. And if you put him at DH, then you lose a few runs from the positional adjustment, and you're also committing yourself to one guy for the long haul with a contract that'll be hard to get out from under.

Aside from great pitching, which is rarely available, pure sluggers seem to be the most overpriced commodity in baseball right now. I doubt Adam Dunn will be any exception. I think he could help the team as a DH, but not nearly enough to justify the deal he'll probably land. The Mariners need to wise up and keep their distance. Griffey'll be there, and he won't cost nearly as much. You couldn't script a more perfect scenario. It'll just be on Bavasi not to fuck it up.

So given that we think it's not a good fit at what we project him to likely cost; how much value do you think he would bring to the Ms?

Jeff: His value depends on the position. In the short-term (I won't bother projecting way down the road), Dunn is 10-20 runs above the average corner outfielder at the plate, and 10-20 runs below the average corner outfielder with the glove. Let's say you don't want him in the outfield. Let's say you move him to first. Dunn is 5-15 runs above the average first baseman at the plate, and 5-15 runs below the average first baseman with the glove. Let's say you don't want him at first base. Let's say you want him to DH. Dunn is 0-10 runs above the average DH at the plate. So in conclusion, his value doesn't depend on the position.

Adam Dunn's big contribution to the Mariners would be serving as a lefty power bat that makes the pitcher throw a lot. In terms of actual runs, though, he's not as incredible as he seems. His big selling point would be that he's not Jose Vidro or Brad Wilkerson or Richie Sexson, but then that's not really much of a selling point at all.

Matthew: He'll be Richie Sexson rather soon except Dunn will be falling from a .240 average plateau instead of Sexson's .270 (hard to believe Richie ever hit .279 isn't it?). Then again, Dunn's most comparable player by age is Darryl Strawberry so maybe he'll stay talented but develop a massive coke habit instead. Either way, I think it's a negative. In fact, Dunn's list of comparable batters is scary enough on it's own. Up and down that list you have batters who were pretty much done by the time they were 30. Adam Dunn is going to be a Jason Giambi-sized mistake except without the four good years Giambi gave the Yanks. I am deathly afraid of Bavasi signing Dunn.

As you mentioned, besides his bat, and the relative worth of his glove at various spots, where do you want him to play? DH? Griffey makes infintiy more sense in every aspect. 1B? Ditto Teixeira. Corner outfield is probably the only spot where there's not a clear cut better option (with bat and glove), but it's also the spot you want Dunn the least.

All of this goes to show that player value is incredibly dynamic and anyone who stays dogmatic to their valuation of someone over the years is a fool. We've ranted for the past five years how bringing in Griffey would be a stupid move, and we were justified in doing so. But for 2009, Griffey makes all kinds of sense. We said for a few years that trading for Adam Dunn would be a good move, but signing him in free agency for 2009 makes zero sense.

Please god let the new Steinbrenners blow their wad on Dunn for 1B and leave us Teixeira.

Graham: Right, it's pretty clear that this would be a hugely risky signing especially with better options available to the team at 1B and DH. Dunn absolutely must not play in the outfield - he's going to get a big contract, and he's going to get it for his bat. Make him run around in left and you lose most of that value. I can't really add any more to the analysis already provided, apart from that he's generally durable, which is one of the few points in his favour, and he's currently a pretty damn good bat, beginning of a decline phase or no.

What would you guys say to Dunn as a 1B when we lose out to New York on the Teixeira sweepstakes? My initial feeling is it would be Sexson for more money and more years. I think this has a real good chance of happening, depressingly, and Dunn will probably be pretty productive for a few years (leading to people citing this discussion as an example of us being wrong, and then we can quote this sentence and tell them to shut up), but it's going to look so stupid four years down the line.

I'd really like to have more faith that the team won't pull something like this but uh...

Matthew: As Jeff noted, Dunn at 1B is still bad because you lose 5 runs for the position adjustment and he's still going to be below average so you're likely looking at a 15 run above average player MAX and that's for 2009 to say nothing of 2010-13+. Based on pre-established aging curves, Dunn's only skill, mashing, is likely to decline at a fast rate and at an early age.

I would sum it up this way:

Adam Dunn, no matter what position you play him at, will underperform relative to his salary in 2009. He's only going to get worse with time.

Also, those people can fuck off. They're the people who loved the Sexson deal, bemoaned us missing out on Zito, endorse the Kenji extension, think Vidro is a good hitter and want a 12-man bullpen.

Jeff: As a first baseman, I imagine Dunn would be superficially productive for a few years, the same way Sexson was at the start of his contract. He'd hit for power and put up a good OBP, leading people to believe that he's really helping out, but with a high salary and negative defensive value, he just wouldn't be providing much over the average. So he'd probably be a point of divisiveness, as too many people seem incapable of understanding that players can be horrible investments while not necessary killing the team on the field. Dunn wouldn't actively kill us for a long time, if ever. But he'd be soaking up way too much money the whole time.

So how high would you be willing to go for Dunn as a free agent? And what's your best guess as to what he'll actually get?

Matthew: What he'll get: tough to say I think since we haven't seen a comparable player hit FA in a while. Carlos Lee who comes to mind actually has a decent to good average so he's more palatable. Interestingly enough, Dunn's most comparable player is Pat Burrell who will also be a free agent. Given his young age, I'm going to say 6/90. Would be a lot higher if he could hit above .250.

What I'd max out at: Given that I'd peg him as a three-win player for 2008 with a rough aging I'd say: 3/40, 4/50, which yeah, wouldn't even be close.

Graham: Yeah, Lee is a good comparison. Unless teams have gotten smarter in a hurry I'd be guessing at 6 years and not far off $100M, and I wouldn't go much higher than 4/50 to get him, whereas I'd be perfectly happy spending ~$120Mish on Teixeira.

Jeff: One could argue that, as teams seemed to reign in the spending a little bit last winter, Dunn might be in line for a lower contract than we think. However, even if he has to "settle" for, say, $75m/5yr or something, that's still a year or two and a few million per season higher than I'd be willing to go. It's tough to say that, since Dunn was kind of a hero in my days of sabermetric infancy, but if you can separate what Dunn brings to the table from his name, he's just unlikely to provide what he'll be paid to provide. And those investments are rarely worth making.

So we're agreed. No Adam Dunn?

Matthew: I'd be a little closer to saying ok to something like 5/75 if there was both a giant need and no better alternative to Dunn next winter. But while there will be a need, there's going to be better options all over the place at the positions he covers (Pat Burrell not among them) to warrant saying no to anything resembling an overpay.

Graham: No Dunn. Surprising that we're all in agreement. 5/75 would still be an overpay, but I guess I would be sort of OK with that if he were playing 1st or DH and we couldn't get Teix.

Jeff: So I guess we agree. No Adam Dunn.

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And so ends the first installment of Three Guys Who Agree On Everything. Look for future roundtables on various other topics of agreement, to be posted approximately whenever the hell we feel like it.