Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Adam Dunn is now a free agent and free to sign with anyone.
Dunn becomes a free agent
Adam Dunn was free to begin negotiating with any major-league club at 12:01 a.m. Sunday, so the Nationals now have no leverage over anyone else in attempting to re-sign the big slugger. I don't think anyone actually believed the two sides would come to a deal prior to Sunday. From the moment the Nats opted not to trade Dunn at the July 31 deadline, it was clear he would test the open market and see what's out there.
Does this mean there's zero chance Dunn re-signs with the Nationals? No. I still believe he'd come back if the Nats make an offer commensurate with others that are out there. What are other clubs going to offer? We have to wait and see, but I wouldn't be surprised if there's less money (and years) out there than Dunn and agent Greg Genske believe there is.
The conventional wisdom all along has been that Dunn is seeking a four-year deal. Is there a team willing to give a suspect first baseman who turns 31 tomorrow a four-year deal? I'm not so sure, especially when it comes to National League clubs.
There's been a lot of talk about the Cubs going hard after Dunn, but this is an organization already saddled with a bunch of bad contracts (hello, Alfonso Soriano) and a new owner who has suggested payroll will not be increased in 2011. The North Siders may ultimately make a play at Dunn, but I don't know they're willing to go to four years.
The majority of the serious suitors for Dunn's services are going to be American League teams. The Tigers are definitely interested. The Yankees could be. Others surely will get involved. Knowing they can always move Dunn to designated hitter if his defensive skills erode, those AL clubs are probably more inclined to offer a fourth year. But Dunn would have to be willing to DH, something he's always loathed.
In the end, I think this plays out exactly as we speculated back in August. Dunn ultimately has to decide if he'd rather take a four-year deal from an AL club or a three-year deal from an NL club. If he really is as opposed to DH'ing as he's always claimed, the Nationals still have a chance.
Either way, I don't see resolution to this matter coming very soon. It takes time for the market to play out, especially with Genske trying to put pressure on multiple teams to offer a fourth year.
Meanwhile, Willie Harris, Miguel Batista and Kevin Mench all have become free agents as well. I don't see any chance of Harris or Mench returning. I think it's possible Batista, who held down a valuable role as long reliever/spot starter, comes back. But that decision probably wouldn't happen for a while, and the Nats would probably insist on the veteran right-hander agreeing to a minor-league contract.
Kennedy, Olsen, Walker, English cut loose
Adam Kennedy, Scott Olsen, Tyler Walker and Jesse English all made the Nationals' Opening Day roster out of spring training. None worked out as hoped, and now none remains employed by the Nats.
The club chose not to pick up the $2 million option on Kennedy, instead enacting a $500,000 buyout for the veteran second baseman, who kept losing out to Cristian Guzman and Danny Espinosa for playing time and never found any groove when he did get a chance to play. I think the Nats will look to sign another veteran infielder who could take over at second base if Espinosa proves not to be ready, but I wouldn't expect it to be any player of consequence. Espinosa looks like the real deal, and he would have to really look overwhelmed in spring training and next April for the club to demote him.
Olsen, too, will play elsewhere after the Nationals secured outright waivers on him, which the left-hander declined and thus became a free agent. The Nats took a chance last winter bringing Olsen back after nontendering him. That won't happen this winter. After another injury-plagued season (not to mention some grumbling on Olsen's part about how he was treated) the two sides are more than happy to part with each other.
Walker was granted his unconditional release on Friday. After having his season cut short by labrum surgery, the 34-year-old may consider retirement.
English's release after the Nats secured outright waivers on him is unfortunate, because the club seemed pretty high on the left-hander coming out of spring training. He made a few impressive April appearances before being optioned to Class AAA because the team needed to clear space for Livan Hernandez's addition to the rotation, struggled at Syracuse, had bone chips removed from his elbow and was never heard from again.
Harper continues to shine in AZ
He's played in only six games for the Scottsdale Scorpions, but Bryce Harper has made the most of his playing time in the Arizona Fall League. The 18-year-old is batting .348 with a homer, four RBI, two doubles, a .423 on-base percentage and a .988 OPS. He has struck out eight times in 23 at-bats, but that's probably to be expected from an aggressive, first-time pro ballplayer facing the best competition he's ever seen.
Because he's on the Scorpions' taxi squad, Harper was ineligible to appear in Saturday's "Rising Stars" game. Two Nats prospects (Michael Burgess and Cole Kimball) were on the roster for that all-star showcase. Only Burgess (0-for-2, strikeout) appeared in the game.
On a personal note
I just wanted to take this opportunity to thank all of you for your condolences the last few days. I was touched by all of the kind words and reflections. The trip back home to Arizona, as I hoped, proved to be an enjoyable one as we all celebrated my grandmother's 95 years with stories, home movies, plenty of laughs and of course some tears. There was nothing she enjoyed more than large family gatherings, and I know she was watching all of us and kvelling about it all just as she always did.