Nationals have to offer Adam Dunn arbitration by today

When the Nationals decided to keep first baseman Adam Dunn at the trade deadline, hanging on to the slugger after a month of fielding offers for him, general manager Mike Rizzo saidthe thing that gave him comfort in keeping Dunn was the knowledge that, at worst, the Nationals would be getting two draft picks if Dunn walked in free agency.

But to get those picks, of course, the Nationals have to offer Dunn salary arbitration. Their deadline to do that, and guarantee themselves compensation if Dunn leaves in free agency, is today.

It’s difficult to imagine the Nationals not offering Dunn arbitration; he’s a Type A free agent who is drawing interest from a number of American League teams as a DH, and the Nationals could give themselves three of the top 60 picks next June if he walked. There’s a chance Dunn would accept and play next season with the Nationals for something around $15 or $16 million, but in that scenario, the team would be guaranteed a force in the middle of its lineup, and it could just repeat the steps it went through this year. By offering him arbitration - and forcing his new team to give up a first-round pick if it signs Dunn - the Nationals put something of a disincentive on the market for taking the slugger. But with a team that puts a high priority on building through the draft, not offering Dunn arbitration would be an error of omission.

And it’s also difficult to imagine Dunn accepting arbitration; he’s said all along he’s more concerned with securing a long-term deal than getting top dollar for his services, and his chances of doing that drop incrementally every year he waits.

So we’ll know by the end of the day if the Nationals offer Dunn arbitration, or if they’ll run the risk of getting nothing if he signs with another team.