February 3, 2009

Over Dunn?

SI.com "journalist" and Boras-mouthpiece Jon Heyman notes that the Nationals contract offer to free agent slugger Adam Dunn has been outstanding for quite some time now and says: "Dunn could still wind up in Washington, but the Nationals' offer has sat there so long he's sent a clear message he'd prefer to go elsewhere." Elsewhere seems to be La-La Land, where Dunn is the perpetual Plan B in the Dodgers pursuit of Manny Ramirez.* Earlier this winter Chicago was rumored to be Dunn's first choice, with "Anywhere but DC" running a close second. As Spring Training approaches and the remaining free agents drop their prices like a pack of Black Friday retailers, I'm wondering if Mr. Dunn would even be welcome in Washington anymore.

When a player comes to a new team via trade or free agency there's usually a honeymoon period. The team waxes rhapsodic about the qualities of their shiny new toy; and the player expresses appreciation for the front office that understood his value, the manager that will put him in a position to succeed, and his new teammates, the greatest group of guys you could ever hope to meet now that "Up With People" has stopped touring. Heck, even Preston Wilson got some positive press in his Washington debut. Dunn's extended free agent tour has thrown a severe crimp in that dynamic.

If Adam says, "I'm excited to come to the Nation's Capital", I hear "Now that all the other teams have taken a pass." If Adam says, "The Nationals are putting together a great squad this year", I hear "Compared to the Long Island Ducks." Because the truth is, if Adam Dunn wanted to be here, and thought he had a good chance of joining a winning team, he'd be here already. If Adam Dunn does end up in DC the standard platitudes are going to ring hollower than usual.

Ideally, you'd like the objects of your ardent pursuit to be equally enamored of you. But as any high school boy can tell you, if you can't be with the one you love, odds are your second choice will turn you down cold too. Even if he's no Mark Teixeira, Nats fans will forgive an awful lot for Dunn's .370 OBP, 40 HRs and 100 RBI. Whether that forebearance extends to being the "safety date" for a defensively challenged strikeout machine with a questionable work ethic remains to be seen.

*NTP takes no official position on the pursuit and/or acquisition of Manny, as we're torn between knowing it would be a complete waste of resources and knowing that we'd go to the park way more often next summer to watch Manny be Manny.

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