- Buster Olney, Senior Writer, ESPN The Magazine
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.
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:
White Sox: 15
• 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."
Moves, deals and decisions
Darryl Strawberry says George Steinbrenner wouldn't approve of the Yankees' treatment of Jeter, writes John Harper.
Heard this: Pat Burrell negotiated his own contract with the Giants.
5. Adrian Beltre's preference is to play for the Red Sox, writes Peter Abraham. This is an interesting situation: Scott Boras represents Beltre and Jayson Werth, and when you consider the entire landscape, it might be better for Boras if Werth -- the more expensive player -- worked out a deal with Boston. But Beltre, of course, has the established ties with Boston.
7. The Angels signed a left-handed reliever, writes Mike DiGiovanna.
11. The Royals worked out deals with a couple of veterans.
14. A Cardinals official departed to work with the Braves.
16. A couple of Brewers weren't tendered contracts, Tom Haudricourt writes.
• We wake to the news this morning that the beloved Ron Santo has passed away. I met him once, but mostly know him through the passion reflected in the broadcast moments when his joy and frustration spilled over on the air.
Here's Santo taking over the play-by-play, sort of -- yelling for fans to sit down.
Here's a touching story of Santo's fight with diabetes.
The man touched a lot of lives.
• The buzz about the Red Sox seems light years away, writes John Tomase.
• The Giants will start selling tickets today.
• K-Rod is due in court.
• Redsfest is being held this weekend.
• Watched the LeBron show last night, and really, I found it just kind of sad. By the middle of the second quarter, after the Cavs fans unleashed their first wave of boos, there were two hard truths in place:
No. 1: LeBron demonstrated, again, that he is a great player capable of making incredible shots.
No. 2: He wasn't wearing a Cavs uniform.
Some of the Cavs fans might've gone to the arena probably wanting to make him feel bad about "The Decision," but the hard truths weren't dented at all. And the Cavaliers fans must've felt incredibly helpless by the end of the night.
• Doesn't it seem like the NCAA has created a blueprint for cheating? So long as the payments aren't sent to the kid, you can do what you want.
And today will be better than yesterday.
Adam Dunn wasn't signed for peanuts -- he likely would have stayed in Washington for around $40 million back in May -- but by getting him inked early, the White Sox beat out some possible suitors who are waiting for other deals to drop.