Yesterday, the White Sox signed Adam Dunn to a four-year, $56 million contract ($14M per season)
On the plus-side, Dunn, 31, is slugger that has survived the steroid testing era by consistently hitting 38-46 home runs in each of the previous seven seasons.
The first baseman is also extremely durable, having played at least 152 games in each of those seven seasons.
On the other hand, Dunn is a .250 hitter for his career, and struck out a career-high 199 times last season. On top of that, he is not a good defender and may be limited to DH duty for the remainder of his career.
As a first baseman in 2010, he posted a -3.1 UZR with his glove. And yes, a negative UZR is as bad as it sounds.
But is $14 million a year too much? Well, let’s take a look at what he has been worth the last few years…
Dunn’s WAR and Value shot up in 2010 basically because his defence wasn’t as bad as it had been in previous years, having moved to first base where he was less of a liability. And if he DHs in 2011 and beyond, Dunn’s value actually goes up, because he is no longer costing his team runs with the glove.
So Dunn’s actual value should be closer to the $15 million per season range. And that meshes well with the $14 million per year contract.
But can he keep it up?
Well, Dunn is a textbook example of “Old Man’s Skills.” That is, he is a slugger with patience at the plate, no speed and no glove. These type of guys (sans steroids) don’t usually age very well in baseball. And we have already seen a hint of the decline with his 2.6 strikeout-to-walk ratio last year, up 73% from the year before.
And yet, Bill James projects Dunn to put up a very Dunnsian season in 2011 at .247 with 39 home runs, a .373 OBP and a .383 wOBA. So assuming the White Sox can keep him away from first base, he should be worth the $14 million in 2011.
But the deal is for four years. It might be a good deal in 2011, and maybe even 2012. But at some point, Dunn will regress and the Sox may end up severely overpaying for the next coming of Dave Kingman (or Pat Burrell for you youngins out there).
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