Dunn to Washington

The corner OF market began to unclog today. First, Abreu goes to the Angels, which we discussed this afternoon, and now Adam Dunn has joined the Washington Reds for $20 million over two years. This is a classic Jim Bowden move – acquire a former top prospect that he’s already acquired previously, especially if he doesn’t really have room for them on his roster. If Bowden was a general contractor, he’d build houses with nine bedrooms, six garages, no bathrooms, and half a roof.

But, getting beyond Bowden’s hilarious roster construction strategies, this move is similar to the Abreu signing – it will make the Nationals better, is a good deal in terms of cost per wins, and will create a roster headache for Manny Acta.

By all accounts, Dunn is signing with the understanding that he’s going to play first base. He replaces the Nick Johnson/Dmitri Young duo of unhealth, and they’ll just call the $10 million that they owe those two a sunk cost. In a best case scenario, Johnson shows something in spring training and the Nationals could move him to someone who needs a LH bat and they get out of his contract.

Dunn, as a first baseman, should be worth something like +2 to +3 wins for the next two years. Moving to first base gets his glove out of the outfield, but he’s been pretty awful at first base in the 900 innings he got in Cincinnati, so he still gives back a decent chunk of his offense with his poor glovework. But, a +2 to +3 win player for $10 million a year at only a two year commitment isn’t a bad deal, especially for a team that’s trying to draw some fans to a new park and.

The problem, though, is that using Dunn as a first baseman means Josh Willingham is now stuck in the outfield, and it’s a ridiculously crowded outfield. Without Dunn, Acta could have potentially hid Willingham at first and gotten Kearns or Harris into the line-up, so Dunn isn’t replacing replacement level players. Both Kearns and Harris can play a really good outfield and hit a little bit, and this move makes it significantly harder for either of them to find playing time for Washington.

Just like with Abreu, the overall value added to the roster by the player will be less than his individual win value. Dunn’s a nice enough player, but this doesn’t make the Nationals significantly better. This should bump them up by a win or so. This is still a really poorly constructed roster. Why is Jim Bowden still employed?

Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.

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15 years ago

Bowden’s problem seems to be an unwillingness to sell high (or even medium) on his players. He’ll gladly pick up useful pieces, sometimes at a good price, but then create horribly blockages on his 25-man, usually in the OF.

I mean, Dukes is the only guy among that group of OF who looks like could be a legit 5-win (or more) player. Bowden seems so afraid of injuries, or of giving away a guy who turns out to be useful, that he instead drives everyone’s value down by refusing to commit to, say, four outfielders.

I’d imagine he’s fielding a lot of calls from other GMs, but I’d be surprised if he’s willing to deal, even if he’s getting fair value.