Are We Dunn Yet?

With the loss of Orlando Hudson for the rest of the season everyone was curious what the Arizona Diamondbacks might do. Losing a team leader is hard enough but when that leader also is a gold glove fielder and one of the most consistent hitters on the team that loss is magnified. Things are further complicated by the fact that the Arizona Diamondbacks traded away Emilio Bonifacio who had been designated as their second baseman of the future. Bonifacio was the primary chip used in the trade that brought Jon Rauch to the Diamondbacks. Many of the media outlets have wondered whether the Diamondbacks are second-guessing that deal now that they are without an everyday second baseman. Personally I think the deal still made sense. While Bonifacio was indeed one of the fastest players I have ever seen, his plate discipline was lacking and I have doubts that he can have a high enough on-base percentage to take advantage of that speed. I also question whether he has the mental focus to become a premier defender up the middle. Rauch on the other hand has had very good success in the bullpen and provides the Diamondbacks with an option as closer should they be unable to come to terms with Brandon Lyon when he becomes a free agent after this season. Debating the merits of that trade does little to solve the current issue the Diamondbacks are facing. So what would Arizona’s response be?

In the immediate future Augie Ojeda will take over at second base. Ojeda has played well defensively when given the chance this season and filled in nicely for Hudson when Orlando went down with a hand injury last year. The Diamondbacks will definitely see a reduction in range at second base as there are very few in the major leagues that can cover the amount of field that Hudson can. Through proper positioning based on advanced scouting reports will mitigate some of this and Ojeda does have decent footwork and instincts. It should be interesting to see if the number of double plays remains constant with Ojeda at second or if the total is reduced. If double play totals fall too far it could have a significant impact on the effectiveness of pitchers such as Brandon Webb and Chad Qualls who rely on ground ball outs.

While Augie Ojeda may be a capable replacement defensively, the Diamondbacks will be giving up a lot offensively. When he went down Orlando Hudson was batting .305 with 29 doubles, 3 triples, and 8 home runs. He had driven in 41 runs and walked 40 times. His on-base percentage was .367 putting him near the top of several offensive categories for the team. Augie Ojeda in comparison is hitting .257 with 5 doubles, 2 triples, and no home runs. He has 16 RBI and has walked 15 times giving him an on-base percentage of .358. With regards to getting on base, Ojeda will fill in for Hudson but you are giving up some power and some speed. Clearly the Diamondbacks were going to take a hit (no pun intended) offensively. It was therefore no surprise that Arizona went to the waiver wire to try and find some help.

It came as a surprise when reports began surfacing that Arizona was in negotiation with the Cincinnati Reds to obtain the services of Adam Dunn. Dunn is currently leading the National League in home runs which would definitely be helpful to Arizona who ranks towards the bottom of that category. At first glance this would seem to be a great acquisition. With the Los Angeles Dodgers adding Manny Ramirez and his bat to their line-up the Diamondbacks are going to need a power hitter that can provide the needed pop to drive in runs. The Atlanta series was a prime example where they struggled to drive in runs leaving a substantial number of stranded runners.

I would normally be excited to see a big bat capable of driving in runs added to the Diamondbacks lineup but I am left scratching my head trying to understand this deal. Dunn is in the final months of his contract and will be a free agent after this season. The Diamondbacks gave up three minor leaguers including pitcher Dallas Buck. Dealing in prospects is always a gamble. You never quite know whether any of these players will pan out and become the next superstar or if they will even make the major league roster. Given Dunn’s current salary and his assumed price tag after this season; this appears to definitely be a “rent-a-player” type of move.

While Adam Dunn does lead the league in home runs, he also comes with the typical power hitter baggage namely high strikeouts. This is problematic for Arizona as they already have two players ranked in the top 5 in strikeouts in Mark Reynolds and Chris Young. They would have had a third if Justin Upton had stayed healthy as he was in that top 5 for a majority of the season. Adam Dunn with his 120 strikeouts once again gives the Diamondbacks 3 players with over 120 strikeouts. It is possible that when Upton returns the Diamondbacks could feature an outfield where each of the three positions has at least 100 strike outs. Clearly this is going to be a team that will continue to be feast or famine at the plate. Statistically Adam Dunn looks very close to Mark Reynolds. Reynolds has 24 home runs and 79 RBI while Dunn has 32 home runs and 74 RBI. Reynolds has 19 doubles and 3 triples. Dunn has 13 doubles and 0 triples. The biggest difference is that Dunn has slightly better plate discipline having drawn 80 walks to Reynolds 44. Perhaps Adam Dunn can teach Mark Reynolds a little bit more patience taking a few more pitches before striking out.

The need for more offense occurred as a result of Orlando Hudson’s injury. Unfortunately Adam Dunn is not a second baseman meaning the team still has a hole in the infield that they need to resolve. Now though they also have a potential log jam in the outfield. For the next week Dunn will play right field while Justin Upton recovers from his injury. This means the versatile Alex Romero will be benched thereby reducing your defense in the outfield. That might be ok for six or seven days but what happens when Upton is activated?

One theory is that Upton will move back to right field and Dunn will move to left field. Conor Jackson who has been the most consistent hitter on the club would then move back to first base. This leaves Chad Tracy the odd man out so you will have traded Dunn’s bat for Tracy’s in the line-up. You could continue this logic and move Tracy to third base where he has played in the past. This would mean you would make the trade off of Adam Dunn for Mark Reynolds. As was shown above, these two players have nearly identical statistics so what have you really bought with that scenario other than double the walks and 27 fewer strikeouts. You have the same amount of power in the line-up. We could take this one step farther and when you move Tracy to third base you could move Mark Reynolds to second base where he played in college and in the minor leagues. A lineup of Drew, Upton, Jackson, Dunn, Reynolds, Tracy, Young, Snyder would definitely be in upgrade in the power department. Of course half your lineup is averaging nearly 2 strikeouts per game so there is that concern.

Even more frightening is the fact that you have just destroyed any defense you had. Mark Reynolds is a near train wreck defensively. He has 22 errors this season. To put that into perspective, that is more errors than the rest of the starting infield combined. One of the big concerns with Chad Tracy at third was the fact that he was not a good defender from that side of the infield. While he might not be as bad as Reynolds defensively he is close so there would be no upgrade defensively there. Conor Jackson has been better this year but then he has played a lot more outfield so by default the errors would go down. The only one you would have that is capable of playing defensively is Stephen Drew and he has 8 errors this season at shortstop. The increased offense would be required to offset the damage these players would cause in the field. Dunn can also play first base but given that there is already an abundance of corner infielders already with Tracy, Reynolds, Tony Clark, Chris Burke, and Jaime D’Antona adding another first baseman doesn’t seem like the best of plans. It will be interesting to see how this plays out The only way this acquisition makes sense is if Justin Upton is hurt worse that the team is letting on. Then Adam Dunn makes sense as you will need someone with more power than Alex Romero in the outfield. This of course means that Chris Young’s job just got a lot more difficult since he will need to cover more ground than he did when Romero or Upton was in right field. Young was already being taxed with Jackson in left, this just makes it twice as hard.

While it may sound as if I am not a fan of this trade, that is not necessarily true. I just question how things are going to play out and whether this makes sense for the overall needs of the team. I trust that Josh Byrnes and his staff know what they are doing. As far as the price that was paid for renting Adam Dunn, I look at it this way. If Dunn leaves as a free agent the Diamondbacks will be rewarded compensation draft picks meaning that realistically you traded 3 lower lever A ball players in exchange for a late first round draft pick. If Dunn, Hudson, or potentially Lyon leave in free agency Arizona could possibly have 5 first round picks which could reload the farm system in a hurry making the already deep minor league teams even deeper. That’s a very good thing. One thing is for certain, I am not Dunn worrying yet.

1 Comment

  1. Despite the risk associated with attempting to block a waiver trade, it is widely believed that most GM’s take a very cavalier approach to blocking trades to fellow competitors. But, why then, did the Los Angeles Dodgers not place a claim on Adam Dunn, who went to their first place division rival, the Arizona Diamondbacks? Sure the Dodgers have a loaded outfield, especially after the Manny Ramirez acquisition, but Dunn is in the last year of a very reasonable contract. Not to mention that he will qualify as a Type A free agent, granting Cincinnati compensation if he were to sign elsewhere. This alone surely would have been enough motivation for the Reds to pull him back if he had not made it through to Arizona. Perhaps there are some gentlemen remaining in the “gentleman’s agreement” or perhaps the Dodgers committed an egregious blunder.

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