The Diamondbacks Dunn Wrong

The D-backs are letting Dunn walk (Matt York/AP)

The Arizona Diamondbacks offered salary arbitration to Orlando Hudson, Juan Cruz, and Brandon Lyon. They failed to offer Randy Johnson or Adam Dunn arbitration. Well, four good decisions out of five ain't bad.

By offering salary arbitration to Orlando Hudson, Juan Cruz, and Brandon Lyon, the Arizona Diamondbacks assured themselves of either retaining the services of each player or obtaining compensatory draft picks.  As type-A free agents, Orlando Hudson and Juan Cruz would each net the D-backs two draft choices should they sign with another team in free agency.   Brandon Lyon, as a type-B free agent, would garner the club a supplemental first-round pick should he sign elsewhere.

Player '08 Salary
Randy Johnson $16 M
Adam Dunn $13 M
Orlando Hudson $6.25 M
Brandon Lyon $3.125 M
Juan Cruz $1.9375 M

Adam Dunn and Randy Johnson are also type-A free agents.  Not offering arbitration to Randy Johnson makes sense: the 45-year old made about $16 million last year, coming off his most successful campaign since 2005, meaning he would get overpaid in arbitration, but might not elicit much interest from other teams.  Not offering arbitration to Adam Dunn makes little sense, despite his $13 million salary last year.  

Part of the theory behind trading Micah Owings - a unique two-way player - and two mid-level prospects to acquire Adam Dunn was that even if he could not quite lead the D-backs to the postseason, at least the club would receive those two high draft choices as compensation.

"That was a premise of the deal," Diamondbacks GM Josh Byrnes said in regards those hypothetical draft picks. "The chances at that time were very good, but quite a few things have changed. I think it's fair to say it's maybe a little different situation than we anticipated. The poor economy has affected some things."

Dunn is the third best power hitting free agent available, behind Manny Ramirez and Mark Teixeira and just ahead of Pat Burrell.  Although he's a poor defensive player, his ability to play three different positions gives him versatility to be courted by several different teams.  Since he is only 29 years old and has no injury history to speak of, most teams would not be too tentative in offering Dunn a multi-year deal.  The risk of Dunn actually accepting the Diamondbacks' offer of arbitration would have been negligible.

Had Dunn indeed accepted, it wouldn't have necessarily been the end of the world.  Dunn led the team in OPS and finished sixth on the Diamondbacks in walks despite playing in just 44 games with them.  His presence in the lineup made the entire offense better, particularly against right-handed pitching.  To accommodate his salary, the Diamondbacks either have to be creative with their payroll, such as trading high-priced veterans Chad Tracy or Eric Byrnes, or consider turning around and trading Adam Dunn.  It's difficult to believe that no other team would want Dunn's services for one-year and around $15 million, especially since that team would then have the opportunity to parlay Dunn's free agency into two compensatory draft picks of their own the following offseason.  

Of course, this is all easy for me to say.  I'm not the one who would be stuck paying $15 million to one player if things didn't work out as planned.  That would be tough for a franchise that has operated in the red for the majority of its existence and has a small fan base that could get even smaller in a poor economy.  Although I do not agree with the Adam Dunn decision, I do understand it.  It was a chain reaction from the disastrous Eric Byrnes extension in August of last year, which I never quite understood.  As far as the repercussions of that financial decision go, losing a couple of high draft picks is among the low-end of our worries.

Possibly not being able to extend someone like Brandon Webb because of the deal... now that is frightening. 


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