ESPN Bottomline 2.0

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

What can Dunn do your you?

On most nights the Nationals cannot buy a run. It is like Washington's offense mirrors the business on Capitol Hill -- slow, stagnant and dull to watch. A perpetual filibuster impeding on progress.

Thus, the notion of trading the most productive piece of the lineup -- Adam Dunn -- would seem like a major mistake. Ryan Zimmerman and Josh Willingham have enough troubles on their hands as the Nationals offense has sputtered in June. Imagine the drop off without Dunn and a disappointing summer in D.C. becomes downright unbearable.

These are temporal concerns. That Nats are going to be better than their last two 59 win campaigns yet, at 33-44 they are on target for a 69 wins and a forgotten entity in Washington come August when Redskins training camp gets into full gear. Hence, no matter what the Nats do, the second half of 2010 is as much a throwaway as the last five years of baseball in the nation's capital.

Hence, trading Dunn now does not seem that bad of an option. He is making $12 million of his two-year $20 million contract this year and, if he was traded today, the organization that picked him up would take on approximately $6.3 million of that contract (considering a $12 million contract comes to about $74,000 a game, times 85 more games). That is not an insignificant chunk of change, about 11 percent of the Nats season payroll of $66.275 million.

Nationals president Stan Kasten knows what it takes to build a winner in the Majors. He presided over one of the greatest stretches in the history of major league baseball as the Braves president from 1986 to 2003 when the Braves won 14 straight division titles, a World Series and sported one of the greatest collection of pitching arms in the modern era.

That is what Kasten and general manager Mike Rizzo will be looking for in dangling Dunn -- pitching. Not just any pitching though. The Nats are not exactly in a position to be buyers where a stabilizing starter and reliever will put them over the top. Washington is on the lookout for close to major league ready young pitching with high upside. The ideal would be someone in double or triple A who could break the rotation by July 2011 at the earliest. 

According to the rumor mill, the White Sox and Angels are the teams most interested in Dunn. So, heading over to Baseball-Reference to check on the organizational pitching depth charts of those two particular organizations and you find . . . 

Just about nothing.

Los Angeles and Chicago are interesting teams. Both have been strong over the last decade and are too proud to throw the towel in on any season. Both started this year on down streaks only to come back in the last month to be contenders in their respective divisions once again and go from probably sellers to definite buyers. Yet, because of this competitive nature, neither team has much depth left on the farm, either from graduation or previous trades.

It is not like Dunn will bring a future John Smoltz or Greg Maddux to Washington in any deal. But, Washington could hope for a player on par with a guy like Derek Lowe (discounting the fact that the Heathcliff Slocumb for Lowe and Jason Varitek trade between the Red Sox and Mariners in 1998 was perhaps the most lopsided deal in the last 20 years), a sinker-baller that is durable to slot into the middle of the rotation for the next five years or so.

The two most promising players in the upper-echelon of the White Sox organization appear to be Daniel RHPs Daniel Hudson and Carlos Torres. Hudson, 23, was a fifth round draft pick in 2008 and is 10-3 in 15 starts this season at triple-A Charlotte. He has a 3.84 ERA over 82.1 innings and a K/9 rate of 10.6. His BB/9 is a touch high at 3.0. In six games (two starts) with the White Sox last year he went 18.2 innings with 6.8 K/9 though an abnormally high 4.3 BB/9. That figures to come down closer to his minor league average given more time in the majors. In the majors last year he had 20 ground balls (including one bunt) versus 38 fly balls/line drives (32 and 6).

Torres, 26, is a touch too old to be considered much of a prospect anymore and did not pitch particularly well in 28.1 innings last year (30 hits, 17 walks, 19 earned runs). His strikeout rate was OK at 7.0 per nine but he also sported an absurdly high 5.4 BB/9, well above his still high 3.7 rate through five plus seasons in the minors. rank Hudson and Torres as the 1st and 20th best prospects in the Chicago organization, respectively and it is not outside the realm of reality that Dunn would be worth the best prospect in a weak farm system along with a a guy who could end up being a useful arm to have kicking around the organization. Other names to watch would be LHP Santos Rodriguez (10th, primarily a reliever) or Jhonny Nunez (12th).

The Angels are similar in having poor depth in the system but have a significantly larger pool of pitchers to choose from. The top names on the list are LHP Trevor Reckling, who is having a terrible season after being promoted to triple-A this season (4-7, 8.53 ERA with appropriately terrible supporting numbers). 

Right-hander Garret Richards is the Angels No. 4 prospect and has played well after being a 2009 supplementary round (No. 42 overall) pick by the Angels. He is currently pitching well at low-A Cedar Rapids and projects to be major league ready by 2012. Of all the options that are available between the two teams, Richards would probably be the best though one has to wonder if general manager Tony Reagins would want to split with perhaps his best pitching prospect for half a year of Dunn's bat, especially considering that Kendry Morales will be back in the lineup in 2011.

This, as always, is just speculation but it is always interesting to size up the trade market as the All-Star game approaches and teams identify where they stand heading into the final two-thirds of the season. If Rizzo can make an acceptable trade, a lost half season of Dunn would be a player well spent.

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