There have been a pair of high-profile free agent moves today, both of them pertaining in some way to the Nationals. The Giants resigned first baseman Aubrey Huff (thought to be a possible replacement for Adam Dunn) for $22 million over the next two years. And the Tigers, one of the top suitors for Dunn, gave $50 million to catcher/first baseman Victor Martinez today, locking the 32-year-old up for the next four years.
This means a couple things for the Nationals: First, if Huff and Martinez - both older players than Dunn with less power than he has - are getting $11 million and $12.5 million a season, respectively, Dunn can feel confident in a high asking price. Martinez’s value appreciates because he can catch, but he’s a poor fielder who’s never homered more than 25 times in a season. And Huff is a year removed from a 2009 campaign where he posted a .694 OPS. He’ll also be 34 next month.
If the Tigers are content to have Martinez DH on a semi-regular basis, it could take them out of the running for Dunn, though there’s been some thought they would pursue both players. But Dunn’s agent, Greg Genske, should have no trouble pointing to Martinez’s deal and at least suggesting Dunn should be in that ballpark.
Let’s say today’s news means the market is warmer to a four-year deal for Dunn than previously thought. That could take the Nationals out of the running for the first baseman’s services - remember, there’s some nervousness in their front office about making too big of a commitment to him - and push them toward a cheaper option. And I know you don’t want to hear it, but that is starting to look more and more like a couple of Type B free agents - Carlos Pena and Adam LaRoche - who could approximate some of Dunn’s power while giving the Nationals some peace of mind in the field at a better price. They could also offer a shorter-term deal to Braves first baseman Derrek Lee, who will not get an arbitration offer from Atlanta and would not cost the Nationals a draft pick. If it comes between shelling out more money for a slugger or getting a more affordable first baseman and saving money for a pitcher, I believe the Nationals would pursue the latter.
And hey, Nick Johnson is available!