At this point, Dunn deal doesn't add up
Column by The Post's Lonnie Wheeler
A lot of the Reds' hardest decisions revolve around Adam Dunn, and we're not talking about where to put the big guy in the batting order.
On second thought, maybe we will talk about that for a moment, because Jerry Narron seems to have a swell idea. Dunn was batting second Sunday for the second time in days - sandwiched around a seventh and a fourth - in spite of his 21 homers and 275 pounds. The jocular Texan is not your prototypical sacrifice bunter - it took him a couple years of hard swinging to produce a sacrifice fly - but he is brimming with that hot sabermetric commodity, get-on-baseness, which is particularly useful for the top of the order.
The man walks a lot, partly because he's picky for a guy who will eat anything, and partly because pitchers tend to steer clear of 500-foot strikes if they can. Plus, the person Dunn drives in the most is his big ol' country self, in which case you may as well move him up in the order for another whack at Mehring Way.
"I've been thinking about it for a long while, really," said Narron, the interim manager. "Dunn gets on base."
There's a fair chance, of course, that the bases on balls will taper off for the long-hitting Longhorn, what with Ken Griffey Jr. and Sean Casey batting behind him; but that, in turn, could extrapolate to more home runs. If this move turns out to be a win-win, that's already more wins than the Reds usually see in a week.
For a refreshingly normal major-leaguer, meanwhile, Dunn is a most peculiar ballplayer. He reaches base in spite of a low batting average. He's a power hitter who leaves runners in scoring position. He's a strikeout prodigy that teams don't want to pitch to.
He's also 25 and on pace for nearly 90 homers over two years; for a career rate of almost 40 a season. He's eminently durable, which should not be underestimated on Team Disabled List. And he, you know, walks.
OK, the man is no Tris Speaker in the outfield (although, equipped with major-league wit, he is a pretty good Extemporaneous Speaker). A lot of folks think his natural place is first base, where he acquits himself adequately but Casey holds forth. And so, as it goes, the question often comes down to those two.
Whom do you trade?
There is no window of winning streak, no breakout of bats, no punch-up of pitching that can save the Reds from being sellers at the trading deadline four weeks from now. Their payroll is poorly spent, which means that it will be significantly reduced as soon as the opportunity presents itself. Dan O'Brien, the general manager, has tiptoed through the obvious and double-talked his way to that very deduction.
This brings us to the commodities market that is the Cincinnati clubhouse. Among the irregularities concerning young Dunn is that, having avoided arbitration last year to the jingling of $4.6 million, he stands to make a heck of a lot more from it after this season is over. He'll make, in effect, Casey money.
The Reds can afford both of them, but will probably lead us to believe that they can't. Of the two, Dunn - six years Casey's junior - is more likely to fetch the kind of pitcher the Reds can no longer do without. Nobody else in O'Brien's portfolio offers the exchange value of his left fielder.
But if you trade Dunn in the midst of a youth movement - and there have been rumbles to that effect - how do you explain it to the paying customers? Short of Albert Pujols, who in the game is a more productive hitter at his age?
All of this assumes that the Yankees or Braves or some other well-heeled contender will not be tempted by Griffey's steady march toward his illustrious past. All of it assumes that the Cincinnati landscape will remain overgrown with executive complications - that Carl Lindner isn't traded for an owner who will hire a COO who won't send his general manager to the plate with his shoes tied together.
In the meantime, color Joe Randa gone but don't count on an ace in return; or even a pair of fives. Hope that Austin Kearns is not redeemed at well below market value. Ponder Wily Mo Pena.
Pena is two years younger than Dunn, with every bit the power; nobody in the business has more. He makes $440,000 but after the season will be eligible for first-time arbitration, which will be kind to him. His tools elicit drools. For those reasons, the Reds could perhaps justify retaining him instead of his left-handed counterpart - if, that is, they place no value on two specific items:
If they don't care about a player's capacity for staying in the lineup day after day.
If they don't care about how it all looks.
To trade Dunn would be to cash in whatever good faith remains in the organization; to sell out the few fans whose extraordinary patience has kept them coming to the park.
To trade Dunn would be to perpetuate a rebuilding process that never gets beyond the subfloor.
To trade Casey would be hard. To trade Pena would be hard.
To trade Dunn would be regrettable.