I'm sure you've read the kind words Ryan Zimmerman said about Adam Dunn earlier this week. That the two are close friends is no secret, and Ryan undoubtedly would like to see #44 back in one of those new 2011 uniforms.
Ryan thinks that perhaps too much attention has been paid to Dunn's defensive shortcomings. He believes Adam is "10 times better" at first now than he was a year ago, and he agrees that it's difficult for a guy that big to ever look graceful around the bag..
The prospect of Dunn's return is iffy at best. He wants to test the waters, and after hitting 38 home runs two years in a row, may be in line for a longer-term deal than what the Nationals are offering. Or not. We'll see.
There's a perception out there that Carlos Pena, late of the Tampa Bay Rays, will be Dunn's replacement. Pena is about 18 months older than Dunn, and while his career offensive numbers aren't quite as lofty as Dunn's, they're not awful, either. Defensively, it's no contest. Carlos has won a Gold Glove at first during his career, and prevents a lot of throws in the dirt from becoming errors for his other infielders.
The most obvious strike against Pena is that his batting average continues to drop since it peaked at .282 in 2007, when he hit 46 home runs: from .282 to ..247 to .227 to this year's .196. His RBI totals have dipped each year as well, from 121 to 102 to 100 to 84. Despite that, he's been a better hitter and defender over those 4 seasons than Paul Konerko, another free agent first sacker who's coming off a much better 2010.
Now, was 2010 simply a down year for Pena, like 2009 was for Aubrey Huff, or was it simply proof that he's headed for retirement by age 35? Someone, maybe the Nationals, will find out.
There's also the possibility that Pena stays with the Rays. He's been a strong clubhouse presence, and the fans down there already understand that the franchise will be cutting payroll. Pena made in excess of $10 million in 2010. He knows his 2010 numbers won't get him anywhere close to that much again. A reasonable guarantee and a lot of incentives might keep him in that market for another year or two.
In the meantime, the mating ritual of free agents and GM's continues. A few may sign by Thanksgiving, but expect the real action between then and Christmas.