A few of you have been asking about how the Nationals would be compensated if Adam Dunn left in free agency this winter, and after responding to a couple comments, I figured it'd be better to put a post up here, so everyone has easier access to it.
Here's how it works: As we learned yesterday, Dunn is a Type A free agent. That means he would bring back two picks - a first-round pick and a selection in the "sandwich round" between the first and second rounds if he left in free agency. Type B free agents, by comparison, only bring back a sandwich pick, whereas a team signing a Type A free agent has to give up their own first-rounder.
But there are a couple caveats to all that: First, the only way the Nationals can get draft picks in return for Dunn is by offering him arbitration. If they don't do that, they wouldn't receive any compensation. But if they do, they have to be prepared for him to accept the offer and play for them next season at his arbitration figure (probably $14-$16 million). My guess is, they'll offer him arbitration, since getting draft picks in return for him has been their hedge against weak trade offers for him all along, and they could have another season to hash out his future at something closer to their price. But the main reason they'd offer him arbitration is to cover themselves in the event he signs with another team, which I'd assume he'd do if he gets to free agency.
So let's say he becomes a free agent and signs with another team. This brings us to our second caveat: If Dunn signs with a team picking in the lower half of the first round - say, the Tigers or White Sox - everything is fine. The Nationals would take that team's first round pick, and get a sandwich pick in addition to it. But if Dunn signed with the Cubs, for example, the Nationals wouldn't get their first-round pick. Why? Teams picking in the top 15 have their picks protected in free agency. It's the same reason the Nationals wouldn't lose their first-rounder if they signed a Type A free agent this winter.
In the event a team picking in the top 15 signed Dunn, the Nationals would get that team's second-round pick instead of its first rounder, in addition to the sandwich pick. So, in that scenario, the sandwich pick would actually be the highest compensation the Nationals get for losing Dunn. And in the event a team signs two Type A free agents, we'd go back to the Elias Sports Bureau rankings. The team losing the higher-ranked player gets the higher pick. So, if the Yankees signed both Carl Crawford and Adam Dunn, the Rays would get the Yankees' first-rounder and the Nationals would get their second-rounder, since Crawford is a higher-ranked free agent than Dunn.
Make sense? Let me know if you've got other questions.