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How Much Would Adam Dunn Cost?

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While larry has a sane take on the matter, some folks are starting to hop off the Adam Dunn wagon for fear of his excess cost and/or lack of production.  Those who are convinced of the latter should reconsider.  He's projected to be the 13th most productive hitter in all of baseball for the rest of the season.  He's been the 15th most productive over the last three seasons.  Were he to be traded to the Sox, he'd instantly be their best hitter.  For a team we've long complained lacks a DH, his production is perfect for that spot.  If acquired at the half season mark, he'd be worth what Jim Thome was projected for over a full season of play.  To that end, he'd completely overturn the biggest complaint reasonable fans have had since the off-season ended. 

So he fits from a production stand point.  But can he be had? 

We can find out using the same method Dave Cameron employs here in figuring Cliff Lee's return.  Bottom line, the return depends on his contract and projected performance.  The arithmetic looks like this:

Dunn is owed $12MM for 2010 and is projected to be worth about 3 wins. If he was being paid market rate ($3.5MM per win), he'd make $11MM or so.  That is, he's being paid what he's worth and he's about revenue neutral for a playoff contender.  Moreover, the Nationals, now free of the contract, would be able to buy the wins lost from trading Dunn at market price.  In that case, even if they get no one in return, the Nationals come out even in the trade: the difference between actually having Adam Dunn and being able to buy equivalent production is negligible.

But we must also factor in free agent compensation.  Dunn is right at the cusp between a Type A and Type B free agent at this point.  That's the difference between a first round pick and a supplemental rounder and just a supplemental.  So Dunn's surplus value, we can say, is about half a first round pick plus the supplemental pick.  Thanks to Victor Wang, we know that's equal to about one grade B prospect.  Guys given B grades are not top 100 prospects and are more like, say, Brent Morel

Should we worry about losing Morel?  If you're getting fair price for him, there's no cause for concern unless you think he's seriously undervalued.  And why think that?  In any case, prospects of Morel's caliber become league regulars less than 10% of the time.  In all likelihood, we'd never hear from him again.

So the Sox are set, right?  They can pay the approximate price the Nationals would ask, so everything's cool.  NSFMF:

The problem for the White Sox is that they aren't exactly a buyer's dream.  The selection of prospects is weak.  The level of prospect that should get Dunn is like a Morel plus like an A ball pitcher with upside.  Problem is that the Nationals don't need a 3B at all.  So you then have to offer Flowers or a hodge podge of lesser prospects.  The former is too much.  The latter is not something I'd take from the White Sox.

Unless Brent Morel is the Nats' preference among the various about equal value offers, they'll go with someone else.  Typically, the Sox see prospects rise from their system to provide for exactly the kind of acquisition we're discussing, but the 2010 version of Daniel Cortes, DLS, Dexter Carter, Brandon Allen, Aaron Cunningham etc. is nowhere to be found.  Worse for the Sox' flexibility, their actually good prospects outside of Brent Morel just so happen to be at positions of need.  Viciedo* and Flowers would seem to fit very well into the Sox' future plans given the expiration date on Paulie and AJ.  And I have to think Hudson more likely portends a trade of the current top 4 given the current accounting.  That leaves Morel and a few others who are too much or too little.  Then there are guys like Jared Mitchell or Trayce Thompson.  They're talented, but what assurances can you make about their injuries?

Ultimately, I think this line of thinking leads to the conclusion that Kenny is going to have to get creative.  The system is as bad as it's lately been in sum, but with worse depth than usual.  So either Hudson or Flowers is on the block, or we're talking about current White Sox contributors.  Or maybe we're lucky and the Nats actually are in love with Brent Morel. 

No matter how this plays out, it speaks to the hole that Kenny has dug for himself in the construction of the team.  The kinds of deals most teams make around this time basically amounts to the efficient distribution of players in contract years.  By this point in the season, it's obvious whether or not guys with deals expiring at season's end are worth it.  It takes far more calculation and interpersonal skills to pull off the kind of deal that makes the team better now and in the future while dealing with the kind of limited resources the Sox have their disposal.  Fortunately for us, Kenny Williams is exactly the kind of guy who knows how to avoid being hoisted by his own petard.  I think.**

*Viciedo also has a weird contract.  Thanks to the deal, the standard minimum pay for younger players and the accompanying usual surplus value doesn't apply.  He's got more upside than Morel, but will be paid what he's worth.  So he doesn't have much surplus value unless it's obvious he's a future regular.  And if he is, why would Kenny pass on that for a half year of Dunn?

**FNS aside.  Also: apparently "petard" comes from the Latin for flatulence.