Daily Archives: August 31, 2011

Adam Dunn: The Future of the White Sox Slugger

Wednesday August 31, 2011

 

 

MLB reports:  Not every player can fit onto a particular MLB team.  That is a baseball reality.  In fact, there are very few, if any players that could produce the same statistics playing for any team.  A player’s production is based on many factors, including home park, lineup, adaptability to particular cities and so on.  When a team trades for a player or signs a free agent, the hope is that the new player will be able to meet or exceed previous production levels on a new team.  Sometimes, the hope is that new environment will revitalize a stagnant player and breath new life into them.  In the case of Adam Dunn, the Chicago White Sox signed him to a free agent contract last year.  A large deal, 4 years for $56 million dollars.  A fair deal in my estimation at the time.  The White Sox by signing Dunn were hoping to land an established slugger to fit in the middle of their lineup.   What they ended up with was quite different.

Take a look at Adam Dunn’s current production in comparison to his career numbers:

  BA HR RBI     OBP
Regular Season .163 11 40       .290  
Career .244 365 920     .374  

To say that Adam Dunn has been anything but a disaster since his arrival in Chicago would be an understatement.  Prior to 2011, Dunn’s worst season produced an .819 OPS.  That was in 2003, his 2nd full season in the majors that was cut short by injuries.  Turn the clock and Adam Dunn sits with a .578 OPS this season with no likelihood of redemption.  While some pointed to Dunn playing in a new league for the first time and starting off slow, a turnaround was expected at some point this season.  Dunn has actually regressed to the point that he is benched by manager Ozzie Guillen at a frequent rate.  A sad state of affairs for one of the game’s previously most consistent sluggers.

For a two-year stretch, from 2003-2008, Adam Dunn was a 40 home runs and 100 walks guy.  In his last two seasons, Dunn played in a less than friendly hitters park in Washington and still hit 38 home runs per season.  Moving to the White Sox, expectations were that playing in a hitter’s park with a deep lineup would produce possible MVP type numbers for the burly slugger.  So what happened?  Why the sharp regression?

Part of the issue has been the move to the American League.  The adjustment has not worked for some hitters and we have seen NL hitters in the past that cannot play in the AL for whatever reason.  Glenn Davis is one famous example that comes to mind, who moved from Houston to Baltimore and literally fell apart overnight.  Dunn also is a full-time DH for the first time in his career.  Some hitters never take as well to moving off the field and into a DH role, citing inactivity and removal from the full game experience as distractions from their hitting.  Given though Dunn’s perceived weak fielding, at both first base and the outfield, a move to DH should have been a welcome change for him.  Yet the move was another factor in his year-long slump.

The main culprit in my estimation is the fit, or lack of in Chicago.  Perhaps it is the city, or the ballpark, teammates, media or his relationship with the manager.  Whatever the reason, I ultimately believe that Adam Dunn and the White Sox simply do not mesh more than anything else.  While  a return to the field and/or the National League may help, first and foremost Dunn needs to get out of Chicago and start fresh. 

I think of Chone Figgins and his move from the Angels to the Mariners.  Despite staying in the same division even, Figgins was never able to meet expectations in Seattle and regressed throughout his time with the Mariners.  Had he stayed in Anaheim, the chances are higher that Figgins would have continued playing his game and not transformed into a shell of his former self.  Carl Crawford in Boston and Jayson Werthin Washington are players that also signed big-ticket deals and also stayed in their respective divisions, yet faltered in the wake of big contract expectations.  But the difference with Crawford and Werth is that they have shown some glimpses of life this season, while Dunn has shown none.  I fully expect Crawford at least to be able to make the necessary adjustments and rebound by next season.  In Dunn’s case, I do not see that happening without a trade.

Nick Swisher is a situation that I will point to as an example.  From the moment Swisher was traded from the A’s to the White Sox, nothing went right.  After suffering through the worst season of his career in Chicago, Swisher was traded to the Yankees for pennies on the dollar and blossomed in New York.  The same will likely occur to Dunn.  A move to the Yankees is a possibility, for a high-profile team that can afford to take on or part of most of Dunn’s salary.  A trade for a bad contract is another one, with the Cubs for Zambrano or Giants for Zito as possibilities.  Better yet, a move to the Angels could also be the answer.  With Mike Trout ready to join an outfield of Peter Bourjos and Torii Hunter, the Angels may not have room for failed trade acquisition Vernon Wells.  The White Sox could plug Wells into their outfield and Angels use Dunn to replace Bobby Abreu as DH.  A long shot, but certainly a possibility.

No one can be sure if this season is an outlier or an indication of the beginning of the end for Adam Dunn.  Based on his strong body of work until this year, I am willing to give him the benefit of the doubt that a rebound will occur.  The White Sox might wait it out and give Dunn another shot next year.  But then GM Kenny Williams has never been the patient type.  After moving Swisher very quickly, I expect the White Sox to do the same with Dunn.  This would be a classic buy-low situation for another MLB club.  Expect many calls on Dunn in the offseason and a new team by 2012.  Despite Dunn indications of having retirement thoughts due to his poor season, I cannot see him going down in this manner.  Adam Dunn will be back.  The only question is where.

  

 

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