Let’s get one thing straight shall we fair readers?

Whether or not the Washington Nationals re-sign Adam Dunn has almost nothing to do with his defensive ability, contrary to what anyone at The Washington Post—whether it’s Thomas Boswell, Adam Kilgore, or this guy—might have to say about Dunn’s iron glove.

It’s all about the money.

More precisely, it’s about the money and years on the contract.

I’m certainly not knocking the guys at the Post. Bless the mainstream guys, they’re buying what the team is selling right now about their “defensive philosophy” and distributing that message to the masses. The team needs to gain a sympathetic ear with those fans when they fail to re-sign Dunn when he hits the free-agent market this off-season, accepting a four-year deal from either the White Sox or Yankees.

And it’s a lot easier to convince those fans that the player has a fatal flaw, essentially blaming the player for his shortcomings.

But it ain’t the truth.

Dunn’s camp—rightfully so—sees this as his last big payday.  They know that several teams lust after Dunn’s powerful left-handed bat, and will pay him to put his glove away. They also know, along with the baseball scholars, that Dunn’s career will follow one of two paths the next couple of years. 

Either Dunn continues to slug homers and drive in runs at a rate so prodigious he’ll be mentioned as one of the top three or four power hitters of his generation, or he’ll fall off the map so fast your head will spin.

I wrote about this back in July when Dunn’s name featured prominently on the trading block, and now watching the big guy struggle for the second straight season during the dog days, the debate has become even more focused.

Dunn’s supporters will tell you he has hit 35-plus home runs in each of the last seven years and could post a career-high batting average this season. Dunn’s detractors will tell you his homers, walks, and On-base percentage have all dropped the last three seasons and he has disappeared two August/Septembers in a row.

Both are correct. It’s Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo’s job to figure out which trend will continue.

If Rizzo is confident that Dunn will follow the career path of Jim Thome, blasting 35-plus homers for the next four years, by all means he should lock up the slugger to provide a middle-of-the-order presence to take pressure off Ryan Zimmerman (signed only through 2013 himself) and Bryce Harper, once the prodigy makes his debut, probably in 2012.

However, if Rizzo sees the decline in yearly stats and consecutive late season slumps and envisions Richie Sexson or Mo Vaughn, then he should run—not walk—away from any long-term deal and wish Dunn vaya con dios.

It’s true Dunn has been one of the game’s biggest run producers in his career, and that descriptions of his defensive abilities range from “improving” to “one of the worst fielders in the game,” depending on whom you wish to listen too.  But comments about his defense being the reason the Nats will or won’t re-sign Dunn are a red herring.

Please visit Nats News Network to find out why.

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