The more I think about this deal, the more I like it. I think an argument can be made that it is better than a longer one (5-years, $60 million) given the present financial situation, the moment in Dunn's career, and the roster situation.
Many posts on Reds Reporter, Reds (and Blues), and this very site have touched on parts of the following arguments, which I've tried to compile in list form so we can look at the whole picture. Some are longer than others, but I hope they all provoke discussion. Thus, without further ado, here are my...
Top Reasons to be positive about Dunn's 3-year contract:
1) The Reds get Dunn in '06 for the price they wanted.
2) Dunn gives up his potential windfall free agent year in '07.
3) Dunn remains a Red for at least two years, but then has a way out if he feels that ownership is not living up to the 'we want to win now' mantra.
4) The Reds keep Dunn for two more years, but they have a way out in case he turns into a latter-day Dave Kingman, as the pessimists suggest. Some strand of common sense sez we should wait to commit long-term money since Dunn has not yet reached elite status. Some may gripe that this 'developmental' stage is our only chance to sign him long-term as a small market team. However, I can easily see another scenario developing where Dunn regresses while AK and/or Mo pass him up in offensive production. In that case, we'd be hamstrung by a huge contract, lose two players we could have signed instead, and lose the money we could have allocated elsewhere (a free agent starter). By holding their mega-deal cards here, I think the Reds are also avoiding potential chagrin later on (committing too much, too soon). We may have actually learned our lesson from the Griffey and Larkin contracts that caused this situation.
5) Dunn is now more tradable than before. Kriv has a much more attractive bargaining chip in case teams (Houston? Seattle? White Sox? Dodgers?) are still interested in trading pitching. This is because they don't have to worry about immediate free agency in 2007 (I'm not sure whether this one is true because the deal might be voided if he is traded... but I think that is only the case for the $13 million of 2008). Kriv has already acknowledged that trading Dunn is still a possibility if the right offer surfaces. It just may be more likely now.
6) The Reds front office finally puts some money on the line, suggesting that they have a 2-year (rather than a 10-year) plan for rebuilding.
7) Dunn has some incentive to keep impressing with his stats since he's got at least one big deal to go (rather than the potential lack of incentive in a bloated, 5-year deal).
8) Dunn is up for a new contract right as Griff rides into the sunset, thus allowing the Reds to slot him into bigger numbers if they deem him worth it at that point.
I'm starting to really think Kriv knows what he's doing. Ditto with Castellini. Optimism is slowly replacing the nausea I felt every time DanO defended another useless middle infield acquisition. Healthy produce is starting to replace the rotten bananas that populated my refrigerator during the Lindner era.
I think we might actually be competitive sometime soon!