So on Sunday evening Nats general manager Mike Rizzo tells local reporters that his preference is to sign first baseman Adam Dunn to a contract extension and that it would take "extraordinary" return value to trade him. One day later an anonymous source tells ESPN's Buster Olney that Dunn is losing patience with the Nats fast. Contract talks are moving at a pace far slower than Dunn and his camp want. So what exactly is going on here?
Let's read the tea leaves. Dunn has said again and again he doesn't want to be a designated hitter at this stage of his career. Any American League team trading for him knows he's likely a two-month rental. Hard to get extreme value in that situation if you're Rizzo. Dunn has said repeatedly he's open to staying in Washington. But that also seems unlikely if we get to the July 31 trade deadline and there's no contract extension. This is the 30-year-old's last, best shot at a big contract. If he makes the open market, expect him to cash in.
But I'd argue the Nats can't let Dunn walk and just take two draft picks by offering him arbitration. For weeks star third baseman Ryan Zimmerman has all but pleaded with management not to break up the heart of the lineup. Just last week manager Jim Riggleman said he will use rookie pitcher Stephen Strasburg right away in the second half -- instead of spacing out his starts -- because the team owed it to its veteran players to win games now.
Well, trading your cleanup hitter -- a guy ranked eighth overall in OPS (.959) -- would be the opposite of that. Taking draft picks or making a limited-value prospects trade for Dunn both sets the big league club back and angers a fanbase just recovering from two 100-loss seasons. His production can't be replaced without getting a major leaguer in return. Those are hard facts. Rizzo knows this. Unless that happens, expect a hard push to hammer out an extension in the next two weeks. It's in everyone's best interests.