There are only so many superlatives to describe the way Adam Dunn is hitting baseballs right now. It's a fair bet there aren't enough to match the number of dollars Dunn will command in his next contract.
Whoever employs Dunn next season will be getting a player that's quite possibly never played better or made a stronger case he's one of the game's elite power hitters. Dunn has two homers in three innings tonight, both of them three-run shots that have already propelled the Nationals to a 6-2 lead over the Dodgers.
Dunn has six homers this week, with six innings - and a couple more at-bats - to go before he's completed six games. He has 30 homers now, giving him the National League lead by two over the Reds' Joey Votto, and his 77 RBI are tied for third in the league. Dunn's .281 average is also a career-high.
All this means a couple things. First, if the Nationals were to trade him - and they'd have a 48-hour window to do so with whichever team claimed him off waivers this week - the price is getting even more stratospheric than it already was. And second, Dunn's leverage in contract negotiations with the Nationals only gets stronger as he surges toward the end of the season.
The number that's been thrown around for Dunn is $60 million over four years, though the first baseman has said he'd consider a three-year deal. If Dunn takes an NL home run crown into free agency, it's not impossible to see him getting that figure, or more, on the open market. According to club sources, the Nationals have decided not to rush things with Dunn, believing they hold the advantage by not hewing to a deadline. Dunn is in the midst of what could turn out to be a career year, though, and the closer he gets to realizing a big payday, the riskier the Nationals' position gets.
Their failsafe option is always to offer Dunn arbitration and take the two draft picks they'd get if he signed with another team. But a bat like Dunn's is difficult to replace. This week, and especially tonight, he's proving how difficult.