After the passage of a physical and a press conference yesterday, Adam Dunn officially became a member of the Chicago White Sox by way of a 4-year $56 million contract.
Much has been made of the pitiful level of production Ozzie Guillen was able squeeze out of the Sox DH slot during 2010 and there is no question that Dunn is a massive upgrade. Last year Chicago DH’s produced a line of 0.247/.332/.396 with 18 HR, 65 RBI and 244 TB. If that doesn’t look that bad to you, consider that during 2010 the Royals DH position produced a line of 0.252/.329/.426 with 22 HR, 78 RBI and 247 TB. Throw in the difference in park factors and it is clear that DH was priority number one for Ken Williams and company this offseason.
Now they have Adam Dunn locked into the role for the next 4 seasons, and that is a good thing for the team’s production and the stability of the lineup. Yes, he did just turn 31-years old last month and yes, all-power players like Dunn don’t tend to age well but a decline isn’t necessarily a foregone conclusion. I personally believe that Adam Dunn is an exception to the rule for a few reasons. The primary one is that he has a track record of durability and has played in an average of 158.3 games per year over the last seven seasons. He has been the model of consistency. After 10 major league seasons, Dunn has a career OPS+ of 133. It has never been less than 116 (2003) and never higher than 146 (2004). Since 2004 he’s averaged 40.3 HR and 107.1 walks per season. That’s a run that has rarely been equaled in the history of baseball and that makes him a rare/special player. It just so happens that the rare and special players are the ones that tend to buck the trends and aging curves. Additionally, moving to the American League and playing DH should help reduce the effects of aging as he nears the end of his contract in 2014.
Speaking of his contract, the terms of 4-years and $56 million made sense to me right off the bat. While others may (and many do) question the length of the deal, I don’t. Even if Dunn declines precipitously in year 3, or 4, or both (and that’s not a given), at an average cost of $14 million per season over the life of the deal I still believe that the White Sox got themselves a significant bargain in the current market. The deal is also fairly balanced in terms of yearly salary which will add to the team’s payroll flexibility over the next several seasons. In short, there is no “albatross” year tacked on to the back of this contract. He will make $12 million in 2011, then $14 million in 2012, and $15 million in 2013 and 2014. He’s getting paid to hit home runs and anchor the heart of the lineup and those strike me as very team friendly salaries to do just that. Dunn’s defense is awful, no matter how you try to slice it, but since he figures to be the team’s DH they only have to deal with that for a handful of interleague games each season. That lack of fielding prowess, once was a drain on his contractual (and on-field) value, has now been removed from the equation. Since the cost of players appears to once again be trending upward, the annual cost of his contract will look even better in the end. Hitting at U.S. Cellular Field is also certain to add to his statistical bottom line and help minimize the impact of a decline in production if such a thing were to happen before 2015.
There are plenty of veteran DH options on the market each and every offseason, but the White Sox just landed what I consider to be the premiere DH in baseball. They also just filled the biggest hole on their roster and they didn’t have to break the bank to do it. From my perspective, this deal is a win for the White Sox and a win for Adam Dunn (he gets the long term deal he’s been waiting on for several years). The only ones who really lose here are the other AL Central teams both now and in 2014.
As a Royals and Twins fan, my initial reaction to this deal was simply, “crap.” As a Kansas City resident I was pretty fired up. I have long been a fan of Adam Dunn and now I will have several chances over the next several seasons to head out to Kauffman Stadium and watch him play in person. He’ll hit some home runs, he’ll probably strike out a bunch, and I will enjoy watching him play.