A month ago if you had asked me who my least favorite player on the White Sox roster was, I probably would have said Adam Dunn. To me he has been a bigger Chicago free agent bust than Ben Wallace. But it seems a month into the season I’ve come full circle on the designated hitter because after just 22 games I think the White Sox should resign Dunn.
Adam Dunn’s first three years with the White Sox were a complete disaster by any baseball standards. He batted .159 his first season with the team (one of worst seasons in MLB history), followed by a .204 average in 2012, and ending with an average of .219 last season. Improving? Yes, but is that worth a four-year $56 million dollar contract? Definitely not; in fact his combined WAR (wins above replacement) over the past two years, 0.7 (0.9 in 2012, -0.2 in 2013), makes him a barely passable starter in today’s game. So after just 21 games, what could have possibly changed?
1. 2014 Adam Dunn is a whole new player:
It is fairly easy to see why the White Sox were initially attracted to the two time All-Star; the big man has been one of the most formidable power hitters of his generation. At 34 years old, the 6-foot-6, 285-pound Dunn is just 55 homers away from 500 for his career. There’s no doubt “The Big Donkey” has value, the problem is his consistency at the plate. Too many times have I seen Dunn go 0-5 in a game with multiple strikeouts.
This year however, Adam looks like a completely different player for the White Sox, playing like he’s worth $14 million a season. Adam has failed to get on base in just two games this season, both being White Sox victories, and has been as patient and relaxed a hitter as he’s ever been. The man has been walked 17 times in his first 79 at bats thus far, that’s a walk every 4.65 at bats, compare that to his 2013 numbers (a walk every 7 at bats), and it’s easy to see the added value Dunn has brought to the team this season. What’s more is the power hitter is striking the ball with some real consistency, picking up 21 hits through 22 games, and with 5 home runs already it seems he hasn’t lost any of his former bluster.
2. Jose Abreu sits in front of him:
In his inaugural first month of Major League Baseball the Cuban transfer Jose Abreu has been as impressive a hitter as there is in the game today. The 27-year-old leads the league in home runs and RBIs, breaking the April rookie record in both categories.
His breakthrough performance and instant rise to stardom not only provides the organization a legitimate cornerstone for the franchise, but also clearly helped relieve some pressure off the overaggressive Adam Dunn. With Abreu leading the team, Adam appears to be much more confident at the plate as he is no longer the sole producer of offense on the team.
On top of that, Abreu’s presence has solidified Dunn’s position in the batting order. With a legitimate hitter in front of him, the combination of Abreu and Dunn in the middle of the lineup has become one of the most effective and feared one-two punches in the league. If you are wondering how the White Sox are first in the AL in runs scored, just look to the middle of their lineup to find the answer.
3. He will be exceedingly cheaper
At $14 million per year, no matter how well Dunn plays this season, there’s no way the power hitter was worth his total cap figure. But, who says he’s still worth that much? He’ll be 35 years old when free agency starts, and after three of the worst season of his career, the designated hitter will certainly come with a cheaper price tag. Not to mention, with guys like Victor Martinez (DH, Detroit Tigers), Alfonso Soriano (DH, New York Yankees), and David Ortiz (DH, Boston Red Sox) set to become free agents this winter, the market for designated hitters will be fairly deep. In the end, as unlikely as it may have seemed just a month ago, Adam Dunn may very well be in the White Sox future.