Adam Dunn has hit 460 career home runs, but he’s down to his final outs.
After being traded to the struggling Oakland A’s for minor league Nolan Sanburn* Sunday, in a move that required Dunn to waive his partial no-trade clause, the Big Donkey is calling it quits, reports 670theScore’s Bruce Levin.
*In the tradition of Balfour, Furbush et. al., effective relievers at one point or the other with unique last names, Sanburn’s upside is drawn not from what he’s done in the minors but what his ancestors decided to call themselves.
Among active players Dunn ranks third behind Bobby Abreu and Jason Giambi with 1,311 walks*, a trait A’s GM Billy Beane salivated on — back in the early ’00s. He’s fourth on the active* home run list, behind Alex Rodriguez, Albert Pujols and David Ortiz.
*Technically, Dunn ranks fourth in walks and fifth in home runs because Manny Ramirez is still toiling in the minors as a player-coach for the Cubs.
Ah, but there is one category where Dunn leads all active players, trailing only the great Mr. October Reggie Jackson and Jim Thome on the all-time list. By retiring after his age-34 season Dunn, he guaranteed not to creep on that record. Without telling you what it is, here’s the total for the top three hitters in said category:
- Jackson — 2,597
- Thome — 2,548
- Dunn — 2.352
Because those numbers are too low for career RBI numbers, it could only mean one thing — Dunn will avoid leading the MLB for most career strikeouts. It’s an amazing accomplishment, and rates-wise, Dunn blows ‘em out of the water. Jackson took 21 years to get there. Thome took 22. Dunn retires after 14 season.
Dunn’s career retrospective, which puts Dave Kingman’s to shame in both good and bad ways, is by no means a HOF career. Reaching 500 homers would have made him the second to be excluded with finality, and the first perceived drug-free one to do so.
The K’s, of which he’s king, will keep him out. His 16-WAR career is nowhere close to the average for a first baseman and left fielder. Yes, people. Dunn may have sold his last glove on eBay, but he played most of his career playing both sides, which is more than what Paul Molitor could say. But he’s been so bad defensively, offset in the past by the consistent ability to hit 40 or more home runs, that we’ll probably remember him as the designated hitter he was in Chicago.
Dunn hit 40 or more in five consecutive years, and six times overall. Jackson hit 40 or more once. Thome hit more than 40 four times, one of which was a career high 51 home runs. Never did he string five consecutive years of doing so. ManRam hit 40 or more five times, stringing together back-to-back seasons of doing so. Giambi hit 40 or more three times.
Alex Rodriguez did it eight times, six consecutive. Sly King Dave “Fucking” Kingman, Dunn’s closest statistical comparison via Baseball Reference, has hit 40 or more once. Greg Vaughn, who as you might not recall, almost became THAT guy who broke Roger Maris’ single season record, hit 40 or more three times. I only bring Vaughn* up because he’s Dunn’s closest age-related comp at 34-years-old.
*Vaugn hit 28 home runs for the Devil Rays, after signing a contract that defined Devil Rays baseball. Devil Rays baseball is galaxies away from Rays baseball.
Dunn will go down in history for more than the K’s. His career epitaph reads “died by the Shift,” that one defensive innovation* that’s been destroying extreme pull hitters that’s left their home run totals intact, but has otherwise destroyed their batting averages, and in the eyes of fans, their usefulness. Dunn isn’t its only high profile victim. Mark Teixeira was once considered a good-all around hitter before the shift turned him into an exclusive power hitter. Chris Davis looked like he was going to beat the shift, but is in danger of finishing below the Mendoza Line this year. And on and on.
*Hello, Rays baseball!
Dunn will most probably sign the last big contract for an exclusive. I say probably because the White Sox get high on DH’s, and Victor Martinez is set to become a free agent. Still, probably is too much because Dunn inked a four-year $56 million deal that’s paid him $15 million annually for the past two seasons to do three things — walk, strike out or hit one out of the park.
And there’s value in such swingers. Jack Cust had a pretty good peak that naturally came with the A’s. Russle The Muscle Branyan smashed 31 playing most of his games at Safeco. At 37*, he was signed mid-season by the Cleveland Cavaliers, after plying his wares with Kenny Powers in Mexican baseball. The Milwaukee Brewers found out you can use those guys to good effect, platooning Mark Reynolds with decidedly non power Lyle Overbay. Imagine a platoon of young Dunn and old Olerud. Damnit, why didn’t that happen?
*That’s like, now. Branyan is on a major league roster.
Dunn won’t play for the A’s everyday. He’ll likely hit against righties, where 18 of his 20 home runs come against. Oakland GM Billy Beane has brought platoon splits back in style. Dunn’s already an upgrade. On a must-win Sunday game vs. the L.A. Angels of Anaheim, Alberto Callaspo filled the DH spot against Matt Shoemaker.
There are other numbers in play.
Oakland’s offense seemingly died in the second half, ranking just ahead of the Phillies for the least runs scored in the month of August. The trade that sent Yoenis Cespedes to Boston is an easy scapegoat. In a small sample size, Cespedes has been slightly worse in Boston, so whatever advantage his .277 BA / .299 OBP / 112 OPS plus in 26 games since the trade is minuscule at best.
And throughout 2014, Dunn may have been the better hitter. At worst, acquiring negates Cespdedes’ loss. Cespedes had a 115 OPS plus in Oakland. Dunn has a 117 OPS plus. Forget overall value, because no one’s crying about losing Cespedes’ glove in left, aside from the run-preventing highlight plays and Best Throw Ever putouts at home plate.
Oakland needed a bat. In theory, the last month of Dunn’s career could help account for whatever was lost when Cespedes got traded for two months of Jon Lester. In reality, Beane’s still got to worry about the eight other guys who’ve stopped hitting.
Dunn OK’d the trade because he’s never been in the postseason. Through no fault of his own, he might miss it again. On the bright side, Oakland’s the closest he’ll get after playing for terrible incarnations* of the Reds, Nationals, Dbacks and White Sox.
*Cincinnati, Washington and Arizona made the playoffs post Dunn. The White Sox may not be far behind.