As we approach the July 31 trade deadline, the White Sox are looking like a seller in a seller's market. One player on the trading block is designated hitter Adam Dunn. Here's a look at Dunn's resume, the factors that the White Sox and other teams would consider in a trade involving Dunn, and some teams that might potentially be a fit.
What he brings to the table: Adam Dunn is a left-handed power bat that can still draw walks with the best of them. If you can live with a low batting average and the strikeouts, he's a great DH option against right-handed pitchers, against whom he owns a .242/.378/.478 line this season. Though the home run count (13) is down a bit this year, his playing time has also decreased a little compared to previous seasons. Overall, his power has declined just slightly from his 34-homer 2013.
2014 overall line: .229/.366/.441, 13 HR, 34 RBI, .357 wOBA
Contract Situation: Dunn is owed $15 million for 2014, after which his contract is up. Assuming a trade close to the July 31 deadline, there will be roughly $5 million remaining owed to Dunn between the White Sox and any acquiring team. If he's acquired close to the waiver deadline of August 31, that number decreases to about $2.5 million.
Why he might be traded: Dunn carries no value to the White Sox beyond 2014. Though a Dunn trade might amount to little more than salary relief, the White Sox would benefit more from the savings than they would from Dunn playing well for them in August and September. Freeing up the DH slot would allow the White Sox to give major league playing time to any prospects in Triple-A that they might want to give a look in the last couple months of the season. Finally, Paul Konerko will likely see more playing time in the last couple months of the year, which would further reduce Dunn's utility.
Why he might not be traded: It would take an injury or an otherworldly bad slump to prevent Dunn from finding a new uniform. He's a contractual liability to the White Sox and an asset to any contending team that could use him at the very least as a great left-handed bench bat. Returns may be limited due to Dunn's poor defense and baserunning, the pre-September roster concerns of a part-time DH, and the fact that he doesn't currently represent more than a modest upgrade on the majority of contending rosters. Barring the unforseeable, though, he'll be dealt.
Teams that might have interest: Particularly once rosters expand, Dunn could fit on many contenders as a lefty bat off the bench that gets some spot starts. As touched on above, finding a home for Dunn where he's a regular as the long half of a platoon is trickier. Here are a few possible suitors for Dunn with that role in mind, but all present some problems.
Between Logan Morrison, Justin Smoak, and Corey Hart, the Mariners have not received great production from their first base and designated hitter lineup slots. Smoak has struggled in his rehab assignment at Triple-A and his return to the majors is nowhere in sight. Hart made his return to the majors after a rehab assignment this past weekend, but he's struggled in limited time this season and for his career is stronger against left-handed pitching. If Dunn maintains his season-long performance, he would represent an upgrade as a part-time DH and first baseman. Furthermore, the Mariners currently carry 13 pitchers and just three position players on the bench. Acquiring Dunn would not put much of a strain on Seattle's roster if they decided they could get by with the American League standard of 12 pitchers.
However, Seattle's lineup already leans very heavily to the left, with only Hart, Willie Bloomquist, and both catchers capable of batting right-handed. Seattle may be wary of swaying the balance in that direction even further. Also, it's well-known that the Mariners will likely pursue a right-handed outfielder with an eye towards removing Dustin Ackley's lackluster hitting from the lineup.
I reached out to Scott Weber of Lookout Landing to get his thoughts on a potential Dunn trade and the return the White Sox might be able to expect:
The Mariners have an excess of quality young relief pitching, and considering Dunn is simply a rental (and not a cheap one) his return shouldn't break the bank for Seattle. Candidates to get dealt from that group includes Yoervis Medina, Dominic Leone, Brandon Maurer, and Carson Smith. All of these players are controlled for a number of years and would help any bullpen far beyond this season. Otherwise, a return could include prospects who may boom or bust, including arms like Edwin Diaz and bats like Patrick Kivlehan. More highly regarded prospects, such as last year's first round pick D.J. Peterson, are probably out of the question for somebody like Dunn.
The Brewers have scored the second-most runs in the National League without getting much out of their first basemen. Milwaukee has employed a combination of the left-handed Lyle Overbay (.241/.324/.342) and the right-handed Mark Reynolds (.207/.305/.390). The situation here to make room for Dunn is simple: drop Overbay off the roster. This would immediately upgrade the platoon's offensive output.
However, there are a couple of reasons the Brewers might not be interested. The first and most obvious is that Dunn would have to play the field, where he's a liability even at first base. Second, Brewers GM Doug Melvin has stated that he's happy with the first base duo, which probably stems from the fact that offense on the whole is not an issue for the Brewers.
"I don't know what you would do," Melvin said. "You're not going to change Rickie [Weeks] and Scooter [Gennett at second base]. You're not going to change [Lyle] Overbay [and Mark] Reynolds [at first base]. One piece, maybe, but it's got to be somebody who can play center field.
To get a feel for the feasibility of a Dunn trade to Milwaukee, I reached out to Noah Jarosh of Brew Crew Ball to get his thoughts.
[The] team probably doesn't feel an urgent need to improve at first with Overbay picking it up at the plate recently. The team can also be overly committed to poor-playing veterans. Doug Melvin has a habit of saying something and doing the opposite, but I'm not sure he would see Dunn as a big enough upgrade to justify a deal. Melvin also shut down any idea of the team picking up Kendrys Morales before he signed with the Twins because of how poor his defense was. Dunn isn't exactly a defensive whiz, of course.
I also asked Noah if he had any suggestions for a possible return for Dunn:
Little to nothing. ... Unless a significant part of [Dunn's salary] were to be picked up, I think the Brewers would be offering virtual non-prospects in any deal.
I think the most the White Sox could hope to get would be a relief pitcher. Maybe a Rob Wooten type could be sent in such a deal. He has the potential to be a good bullpen arm for a few years, but hasn't been the best this season in the majors. He won't likely blow anyone away, but he would be a potential big league piece in return for a soon-to-be free agent whose value is not at it's highest.
After the Jeff Samardzija trade, it's clear that Billy Beane is going to do whatever he can to win the World Series this year. Overall, Oakland designated hitters have hit .231/.316/.389. That's slightly weighed down because Alberto Callaspo doesn't DH regularly anymore, and he slugged .330 in 122 plate appearances as the A's primary DH at the beginning of the year. In any case, the addition of Dunn could certainly be expected to improve that lineup slot.
However, Dunn's presence in the lineup creates an issue with what to do with John Jaso, the player the A's have used the most at DH. Though he's slumped since the beginning of June, Jaso has hit .281/.359/.439 against right-handed pitching and has a legitimate claim to a lineup slot when a righty is on the mound. Jaso can be moved to catcher when Dunn starts, but he's bad defensively and this would further reduce Derek Norris' playing time, who has a .389 OBP against righties. Though Dunn could help, he'd generally be displacing a good bat in the lineup and doesn't address the primary problem position the A's have had: second base.
The fit for Dunn on these teams is less than perfect, but it gets even tougher to imagine him as a regular starter on other contenders. The other competing National League teams have either a good regular first baseman or a serviceable platoon. The other American League contenders have received good production from the DH slot except the Yankees and Royals, and even those teams have reasonable second-half bounceback candidates in Carlos Beltran and Billy Butler. The Indians may have interest, but it's no guarantee that they'll continue to consider themselves buyers.
Outlook: Adam Dunn could help a contending team, but he could be acquired for a more limited role than what he's seen with the White Sox. There's even a chance he'll be traded as a bench bat to a National League team via a waiver claim, similar to Jim Thome in 2009. For the time being, the White Sox will be on the lookout for injuries on other teams that might help build the market for Dunn's services. The potential return (primarily salary relief) decreases with every passing day, so the sooner the White Sox can execute a deal, the better.