Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Take Yes for an Answer, Rizzo

Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times reports that the White Sox have offered the Nationals anyone in their minor league system for Adam Dunn, and that Rizzo is holding out for Gordon Beckham or Carlos Quentin.

All caveats about unnamed sources apply. Always take this kind of report with a grain of salt--the sources more often than not are player agents or third-party GMs trying to advance their own interests, not share info.

But, then again, these reports aren't always bogus, and Kenny Williams certainly has a track record of bold strokes to win now. So, let's assume for the sake of argument that the report is true, and that Sox have offered anyone in their farm system, plus Daniel Hudson and Dayan Viciedo. Is there a deal here?

First, let's measure the value of what the Nationals would be giving up. Dunn is under contract for the rest of this season at a salary of $12 million. Using wOBA to measure offense and UZR to measure defense, Dunn has been worth 3.0 wins above replacement this year, putting him on pace for 5.1 WAR for the season. For context, 2-3 WAR is typically a starting caliber player, 5 WAR usually is an all-star, and 8 WAR is typically MVP.

This is a pretty solid measure of his value, although one caveat is that one of UZR's shortcomings is that it doesn't measure the value of runs prevented by first baseman catching errant throws, or "scoops." Dunn's height allows him to catch some balls other first basemen wouldn't get too, but he comes off the bag way way way too much and generally doesn't do his fellow infielders many favors. So we should shave maybe half a win off for that.

Also, you lose another half win for the positional adjustment from first base to DH (more players can "play" DH than first base).

Regardless, for a team in the hunt, adding even a 4.0 WAR guy like this with 70-ish games to go is a big addition. And since the White Sox are in a race that will go down to the wire and have used Mark Kotsay at DH more than any other player this year, and Juan Pierre is a giant sucking sound (ask your grandparents) in left, Dunn could easily be the guy who makes their year.

Now, on the Nationals' side, they are obviously going nowhere this year. They are 40-53, putting them on pace for 70 wins. And of course the trendline is not good, so they're probably on track to narrowly beat the pre-season over-under of 67 wins. If they trade Dunn, they probably replace him with a combination of Mike Morse, Willie Harris (and move Willingham to first), and Justin Maxwell. Those guys should provide replacement level value--not much more, but probably not less.

So trading Dunn might push them down to 67 or 66 wins. And any way you measure it--financially, emotionally, whatever--the difference between 69 wins and 67 wins is basically nil. Even y'all who sit and watch every game in the front row, I'm sorry, you don't really care about 2 more wins.

Then there's the potential opportunity cost of the draft picks that the Nationals would get if they kept him and offered him arbitration, assuming Dunn would decline and become a free agent. It's not totally clear to me that the Nationals would offer him arbitration or that he wouldn't accept it if offered. Still, you have to factor in that value.

Since Dunn's contract is up at the end of the season, that's really all that's at stake here. If the Nationals traded him to Chicago, Dunn would probably be back on the market this winter. That's because the Sox are pretty unlikely to give him a long-term contract given their $103 million payroll, Paul Konerko becoming a free agent, and long-term commitments to Jake Peavy, Alex Rios, and Mark Buehrle.

If the Nationals think Dunn is the key to their playoff hopes in 2011 or 2012 (it's gonna take way more than that--more on that another time), then they can pony up another $20 million or so and get him back.

Now, let's take a quick look at the White Sox prospects:
  • Daniel Hudson: at age 23, he put up a 108:31 strikeout to walk ratio in 93.1 innings at AAA Charlotte. He was the #66 prospect on the Baseball America top 100 at the start of the year, and his stock has only gone up. If Hudson is offered, it's an absolute no-brainer, even if the Nationals have to eat salary and throw in Craig Stammen.
  • Jared Mitchell: Mitchell, a super-fast centerfielder and lead-off man who showed advanced OBP skills as a 20-year-old in A-ball in 2009, was actually the top prospect in the White Sox system going into the year. Then, he tore a tendon in his ankle. Given the importance of the speed tool for Mitchell, you'd rather wait till he's fully rehabbed. Then again, you'll never get him for a 2-month rental of Adam Dunn after he's fully rehabbed. I'd rather have Hudson, but this is still an easy "yes," unless there's some bad medical news we don't know about.
  • Tyler Flowers: Flowers is a major league-ready bat with good OBP skills and decent pop for a catcher. He came to the Sox in the Javier Vazquez trade. The report is that the White Sox offered "anyone in the minors," but it would be hard to trade the heir apparent to free agent A.J. Pierzynski. But, if they do, again, this is a trade the Nationals should do in a heartbeat. Derek Norris is taking a step back, who knows about Jesus Flores, and you can never have too many catchers.
  • Dayan Viciedo: You've probably heard of him since he's playing third base now. The Nationals could bring him in and make him a first baseman, which is probably a better long-term fit anyway. I'm not much of a fan. He's a fat hacker with a four-year, $10 million major league deal. I wouldn't be super excited about this, though it's still a good value.
  • Jordan Danks: Danks is also close to breaking through at the big league level. He hasn't set the world on fire at AAA, putting up a .243 / .314 / .377 line. But he's a plus defender, and the Sox say he's battled injuries this year and remain high on him. Again, this would be a fair value, but you'd choose others ahead of him.
  • Brent Morel: BA's #3 prospect going into the year, he's a very good all-around player and a pretty safe bet as a quality major league regular. But, he's a third baseman. In a vacuum, it's a great value, but not for the Nationals.

17 comments:

John O'Connor said...

I've never been a big believer in the notion that you can trade a guy and then pick him back up as a free agent at the end of the year. That seems to happen so rarely with decent players and the very act of trading them may fray relations and make signing the player more difficult.

But more to the point, Dunn will, in all likelihood, be a Type A free agent. If the ChiSox offer arbitration, you'd have to give up a second round pick to sign Dunn as a free agent (the Nats' first round pick will be protected). So it's not as if the Nats could re-sign Dunn after the season for nothing except money, even if Dunn were inclined to come back.

That said, I'd probably do the deal for Hudson.

Steven said...

It's not that unusual. See: King, Ray; Stanton, Mike

TBC said...

It's not that unusual. See: King, Ray; Stanton, Mike

See two guys who couldn't get a job anywhere else except with the worst team in baseball. Adam Dunn is not such a guy.

Steven said...

How is it possible that players have trade value in July or August but then "can't get a job anywhere else" by December?

Besides, John's speculation is that the act of being traded is so hurtful that it ends the possibility of ever resigning with the team that traded the player. If it's an emotional issue, then it shouldn't make that much of a difference if you're talking about a fungible lefty in the bullpen or an everyday player.

Bottom line, if the Nationals offer Dunn enough money, he'll come to DC. As it was in 2009, so it shall be in 2011.

mike said...

If you can't see the difference between Ray King/Mike Stanton and Adam Dunn coming back, then I can't help you

Steven said...

who asked for your help?

TBC said...

How is it possible that players have trade value in July or August but then "can't get a job anywhere else" by December?

Let me introduce you to the concept of an expiration date on a product. If you're starved, you'll drink that carton of milk that expired last month. If you're full, you'll dump it out or serve it to the cat. In July/August, teams that fancy themselves to still have a chance are starved. They'll eat anything they can get their hands on. In December when all but the worst teams are full, the stuff that would get scarfed down in July/August is worthless. King's and Stanton's sell-by dates had already passed by the time they were traded. Dunn's sell-by date is still several years away.

Steven said...

This is a stupid discussion.

Dunn is a free agent. Regardless whether they trade him or not, the nationals will have to pony up tens of millions to keep him after this year. Trying to parse the theoretical impact of trading him now on the relative potential for the success of theoretical negotiation scenario A vs. theoretical negotiation scenario B is just inane.

He's got 2 months left on his deal. After that all bets are off. So you're giving up 2 months, plus potentially the draft picks. That's it. Maybe you could re-sign him, maybe you couldn't. In either scenario, that's a big fat maybe or probably not.

John O'Connor said...

The best player I can think of who was traded in a deadline deal and then re-signed with the club that traded him is Sidney Ponson. I'm sure there's better (by God, there HAS to be), but I doubt the list will be illustrious.

I never said that a trade would Be "so hurtful that it ends the possibility of ever resigning with the team that traded the player." That's a straw man. I said it could fray relations, particularly where the player wanted to get an extension, and could make re-signing the player "more difficult."

My main point, though, is that Dunn might come with a compensation tag as a free agent if a team to which he is traded offers arbitration (and wouldn't most teams? The issue with Dunn and his body type is not being on the hook for too many years, and a one-year commitment is perfect for that). So it's not a freebie to trade the guy, pick up a prospect, and then just get him back for money.

Steven said...

I think the reason it doesn't usually happen with premium players is that these players usually get traded by teams that are out of it and rebuilding. Those teams don't usually then turn around and break the bank on an aging vet. Again though, just because it doesn't usually happen doesn't mean that Adam Dunn is going to take less money cuz his feelings were hurt by getting traded.

TBC said...

This is a stupid discussion.

You should know. You started it, after all.

Harper said...

Seems like Rizzo is trying to "buy low" on Beckham and Quentin but Williams actually needs those players to win now. (well maybe not Beckham but it would be crazy to give up on him now). Williams doesn't seem to mind tossing minor leaguers after major ones, (because their system is never great and prospects more often fail than not) so why not try for more than one. Hudson and Viciendo, perhaps? That would be fantastic. Strasburg/Hudson/and a recovered Zimmermann could be the type of Top 3 teams dream about.

Steven said...

@Harper--Calceterra argued that Rizzo is in a good place to drive a hard bargain, and I think this is right.

But there are an awful lot of guys who could be DHs around the league. It doesn't help if he holds out for the sun and the moon while Williams trades for Jorge Cantu.

Harper said...

Truem but I think White Sox trade history has shown that Rizzo can get what he wants from Williams... as long as it's minor league players.

Steven said...

Steven-
So do you think that trading Dunn has no impact on his willingness to resign here?

Will said...

I think you can make a case for trading Dunn either hurts his feelings or has no impact. I could even argue that trading him would make him more likely to resign with the Nats. Since Dunn appears to be looking for a 4 year deal, he'll be joining a team for the (relative) long term. His buddies Zimmerman and Willingham will still be there next year, and the Nationals will have added two(?) prospects who will contribute to the team over those four years he'll be signed with the team.
Furthermore, if the trade ordeal was so horrible, they can always add some sort of no-trade clause into his contract.

In the end, though, Steven is right and talk of these hypothetical scenarios is fruitless.

Steve Shoup said...

Alright a couple of points as for Dunn resigning their are of course no guarantees, and yes he might have more teams after him than say a Stanton/King ect. but the Nats will have advantages other teams won't. Dunn I think for the foreseeable future wants to remain in the field, meaning teams like the Yankees, Angels, White Sox ect. who want him as a DH long term are less attractive options. Next I think Dunn enjoys D.C. and the fans that I think he might choose that over an unknown fringe contender. Not to mention Dunn would be coming back to a stronger team since the Nats would have the prospects they acquired. I would put a Dunn reunion with the Nats in the 60% range.

As for the meat of the issue in a trade with the White Sox I'd be very happy with a Hudson-Flowers deal, and slightly less happy with a Hudson-Danks. Morel I agree nice value but no room at the inn for the Nationals.

It should also be noted that the Nats would save a significant chunk of change that could then be used to help resign Dunn in the offseason (or draft picks, international FA's ect.)