Adam Dunn is still a Washington National.

With a half-dozen or more teams making offers for the slugging first baseman right up to the last moments of the July 31 trade deadline, General Manager Mike Rizzo decided on Saturday afternoon that doing nothing made the most sense.

Dunn made it very clear that he didn’t want to leave Washington and believed that a multi-year deal with the Nationals could be reached any time this summer, this fall, even after the season is over.

He wants to stay. Really.

To Dunn, it all seems like a no-brainer. “Make me a fair offer and I’ll take it” is the underlying tone in all of his comments.

But does anyone remember Alfonso Soriano?

Soriano came to Washington in the winter of 2005 with one year remaining on his contract but said many times that he would like to remain a National.

But by mid-July, Soriano was hitting .280/.353/.573 with 30 home runs, 60 RBI and 23 stolen bases.

He was probably the most sought-after player at the trade deadline.

Every day, Soriano came to the ballpark and told anyone who would listen that he didn’t want to get traded, that he loved playing in Washington, and that while he never said it in so many words, suggested that the Nationals were up for a home-team discount.

That was, of course, assuming he wasn’t traded.

And he wasn’t. And for the rest of the season, Soriano was a very happy camper, right up to the moment he signed an eight-year, $136 million contract with the Chicago Cubs just days after the beginning of the free agent signing period. He never even gave the Nationals a courtesy call.

So much for a home team discount.

Yes, the Nationals got a couple of compensatory draft picks the next season, and yes, one of them turned out to be Jordan Zimmermann.

But in 2007, The Nationals were a franchise bereft of talent and it had no hope of contending. They could wait a few years for those picks to develop and mature.

Not so any more.

Heading into this off-season, the Washington Nationals have enough starting pitching depth to field two quality rotations and could craft a third from their minor league system.

The difference between the current roster and a contending one in 2011 could be just a player or two. Wilson Ramos, the top catching prospect in all of baseball, fills one hole at catcher. Keeping Dunn could fill the other.

Now that the trading deadline has passed and Dunn remains a National, the team has only one real hope to keep the team on the cusp of contention next season: Sign Adam Dunn before he can become an unfettered free agent able to sign with any team.

If Dunn doesn’t sign in the next three months, he is going to become a free agent. The team can’t stop him.

They will have a couple of choices, however.

They can offer him arbitration. If Dunn accepts, the Nationals will have him under contract for the 2011 season with his salary determined by a mutually-agreeable arbitrator.

Dunn would probably make $15 million or so.

If he declined arbitration, the Nationals would then get the two draft picks, one in the middle of the first round and the other just after it.

But if the Nationals don’t want to take the chance of having Dunn accept arbitration (and have to pay him that kind of money), they would not make the offer and thus lose the draft picks.

There is no way that would happen. Not signing a player who says he wants to sign is one thing. Not signing him and then getting nothing for him in return would be disastrous for the franchise.

Mike Rizzo wouldn’t allow that to happen.

The sticking-point between team and player doesn’t seem to be money. Based on salaries of other slugging first baseman, $15 million per season is not outlandish and the team could both afford it and justify it.

No, the problem is in the length of the contract.

Sources say that Dunn is seeking a four-year contract and the Nationals don’t want to commit themselves for that long. He will be 34 in 2014 and the team worries that his hulking body might start to break down by then.

Some believe the Nationals are offering a two-year contract, hoping that the two sides could meet in the middle at three years, $45 million.

Dunn was 29 when the Nationals signed him two a two-year, $20 million contract. He was willing to sign for three years but the Nationals declined (that sure seems like a bad decision right now, doesn’t it?).

If a 29-year-old who had hit 40 or more home runs for five consecutive years couldn’t get a four–year deal, it is doubtful that a 31-year-old would.

If Dunn really wants to stay with the Nationals, he should accept arbitration and take the $15 million or so for 2011.

If all goes well, the Nationals will be close to contending next season and signing their star player to a three-year deal would be more palatable than it is now.

One year of arbitration plus a three-year contract gets him to his four years and $60 million.

I never believed Alfonso Soriano when he said he wanted to remain with the Nationals. This is a guy who went to Japan to begin his professional career so he could then return to the major leagues as a younger free agent and reap the financial benefits.

And that whole “I’m not taking the field if I have to play left field” thing sure didn’t impress me, either.

But Adam Dunn is a decent, honest man. I believe what he says. He says he wants to stay in Washington because that’s what he wants to do.

But he doesn’t want to be taken advantage of, either.

Here is his chance to prove it. Work out an agreement before testing the free agent waters. But saying you want to stay, and actually staying, are two very different things.

Your decision and your integrity will be weighed and compared to Alfonso Soriano.

Show Nationals’ fans that our appreciation for you as a person, and a player, are well-founded.

Sign the darn contract.

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