White Sox beat the domino effect 

December, 3, 2010

Adam Dunn has been the fox and the Chicago White Sox have been the hound dogs, pursuing the slugger throughout the summer and into the fall, before Kenny Williams finally got his man with a four-year, $56 million deal yesterday.

Getty ImagesAdam Dunn's power transferring to the Cell is as much of a sure thing as the free-agent market offered.
But there was more to this than the White Sox just throwing out a number; the timing of their aggressiveness was perfect. The White Sox were well aware of the domino theory, which was detailed here yesterday, and at some point, as the best free agents came off the board -- Cliff Lee, Carl Crawford, etc. -- then some of the losing bidders would have set their sights on the 31-year-old Dunn, who has hit 38 or more homers in seven consecutive years and has continued to refine his skills at the plate.

So Williams struck hard and fast and took Dunn off the board, before any of the other clubs began to focus on the left-handed slugger.

The White Sox still appear to be the favorites to work out something out with Paul Konerko, now that Konerko's market price has been established, and he and Dunn will share first base and DH duties in the middle of a lineup that could generate 225 homers in 2011; the White Sox finished with 177 homers in 2010, the seventh most in the majors.

Konerko posted a .393 on-base percentage last year, and Dunn has a .381 on-base percentage in his career. Whoever hits fifth in this lineup -- behind Konerko and Dunn -- is going to have a chance to drive in a ton of runs.

Some of the numbers on Dunn, from Mark Simon, with lots of help from the crew at ESPN Stats & Information:

The players who've hit the most homers, since 2004:

Albert Pujols: 294

Adam Dunn: 282

Alex Rodriguez: 268

David Ortiz: 260

Ryan Howard: 253

And the most consecutive seasons of 38-plus home runs, all time:

Rafael Palmeiro: 9, 1995-2003

Adam Dunn: 7, 2004-2010

Babe Ruth: 7, 1926-1932

Isolated Power is a metric that looks strictly at a player's ability to get power hits (doubles, triples, homers). Basically it's extra bases per at-bat (slugging percentage without the singles). Dunn rated consistently among the best in the NL in this stat. Here are his numbers over the past seven seasons:

2010: .276 (T-2nd)

2009: .262 (8th)

2008: .277 (4th)

2007: .289 (3rd)

2006: .257 (1st)

2005: .293 (3rd)

2004: .303 (5th)

Over the past seven seasons, only Ichiro has played more games and only Pujols has hit more home runs than Dunn. During that time he has the most strikeouts AND the most walks in the majors. Where Dunn ranks across MLB in parentheses:

Games: 1,108 (2nd)

HR: 282 (2nd)

K: 1,262 (1st)

BB: 750 (1st)

And where the White Sox ranked at DH last year:

OBP: .332 (9th)

Slug pct: .396 (9th)

HR: 18 (10th)

BB: 65 (9th)

And a look at Dunn's numbers from 2010 compared to where he would have ranked (in parentheses) had his primary position been DH:

OBP: .356 (7th)

Slug pct: .536 (2nd)

HR: 38 (1st)

RBI: 103 (2nd)

Not only was Dunn one of the most prolific home run hitters last season, ranking second in the NL with 38 homers, but his homers were consistently also among the longest. According to Hittracker, his 38 homers traveled an average of 411 feet, the fourth-highest true distance average among players with at least 20 homers last season. He also hit the third-longest homer last season, a 479-foot shot Sept. 14 at Turner Field. Here's how his average shot stacks up:

Josh Hamilton: 421

Mark Reynolds: 416

Carlos Gonzalez: 415

Adam Dunn: 411

Troy Tulowitzki: 410

The fact the White Sox gave Dunn a four-year contract is somewhat surprising and uncharacteristic of the team based on their history with free agent contracts. Dunn's four-year contract would be just the 16th free-agent contract of four or more years given out by the White Sox since the 1990-91 offseason. The White Sox are one of five teams to have given out 15 or fewer contracts of four-plus years since then. These teams have given the fewest since 1990-91, excluding Dunn's deal:

Twins: 13

Marlins: 14

White Sox: 15

Brewers: 15

Tigers: 15

The White Sox also worked out a deal with A.J. Pierzynski, writes Joe Cowley. The Orioles took a run at Dunn.


• The losers in all of this are the Nationals, who probably could've locked up Dunn for something in the range of three years and $30 million at the All-Star break, when Dunn very much wanted to stay in Washington. After deciding to not make that deal, the Nationals' leadership opted to not trade Dunn when the interest in him was at its hottest, in July; they failed to get any major league ready young players, which is exactly what they have a desperate need for today.

In the end, they get a couple of draft picks in compensation, and now that the smoke has cleared, it's clear that they badly missed in taking advantage of his value, either with a contract extension or in trade.

Their lineup without Dunn suddenly looks very different -- significantly weakened. Without Dunn hitting in the middle of the order, there is no reason for opposing pitchers to pitch to Ryan Zimmerman.

Time will tell whether Dunn's departure will erode Zimmerman's feelings about the future of the franchise. Zimmerman, you may recall, had talked openly and repeatedly about how he wanted Dunn to remain with the team.

The Nationals have taken a hit, writes Adam Kilgore, and he spoke with Zimmerman. From Adam's story:
    "To me, this is the place where I want to be, where I want to be for the rest of my career," Zimmerman said. "The only reason I wouldn't want to play here is if I thought we didn't have a chance to win ... I still believe that we will."

    Zimmerman was clearly frustrated though, and it's a frustration that assuredly will represent the overwhelming majority of the team's fan base. "I hope that this plan they have intact -- I guess this is one of the years we were supposed to take that next step and become one of the teams that gets those free agent guys," Zimmerman said. "They've told us and the fans to be patient. Hopefully this is one of the years we start acquiring impact guys and taking the team to that next level."

• The Dodgers didn't tender a contract to Russell Martin.

• The Yankees quietly have worked out a two-year deal with Mariano Rivera.

Moves, deals and decisions

1. The Yankees and Derek Jeter are still talking; I'd bet they'll reach an agreement today.

Darryl Strawberry says George Steinbrenner wouldn't approve of the Yankees' treatment of Jeter, writes John Harper.

2. The Mariners traded Jose Lopez, writes Geoff Baker, and signed Erik Bedard. The Rockies like Lopez's versatility.

3. Miguel Tejada was thrilled to work something out with the Giants.

Heard this: Pat Burrell negotiated his own contract with the Giants.

4. Jason Varitek finished a deal with the Red Sox.