Don’t be Scared by Adam Dunn’s Type-A Status


Since the news, well rumors, broke yesterday that the Detroit Tigers were in “serious” discussions with free agent Adam Dunn, much has been made about Dunn’s Type-A status. Originally, Eddie Bajek, who calculates these rankings for MLBTR to predict the Elias rankings, had Dunn pegged as a borderline player, but slotted him in as a Type-B.

When the Elias rankings came out, Dunn was Type-A; meaning that any team who signed him would have to forfeit a first-round draft pick to the Nationals. Type-B free agents, such as recently signed Joaquin Benoit, do not cost a draft pick, as a “sandwich” pick is created and awarded to the team losing that player.

The financial cost of inking Dunn to a contract is expected to be somewhere in the neighborhood of $60 million spread over four years. For reference, that $15 million per year figure is $3 million less than the Tigers paid Magglio Ordonez last season. It’s just slightly more than the Tigers paid Gary Sheffield in 2009, while Sheffield was playing for the Mets. It sounds like a lot of money to be sure, but in terms of the Tigers and their recent history, Dunn’s contract should fall in to the “business as usual” category for Detroit.

Dunn, like Sheffield before him, isn’t much of a defender, another sticking point with fans who oppose the Tigers interest in Dunn. He played in the outfield in his younger days, but wasn’t ever good at it. In the past two years, Dunn has been almost exclusively a first baseman in Washington, but his defense there makes Miguel Cabrera look like a gold glover. There’s really no getting around the idea that Dunn’s best position is designated hitter. He can play left or right field in a pinch, he can fill-in at first, but you really don’t want him wearing anything but a batting glove on his hand.

If the Tigers are comfortable with the idea of bringing him in, and it certainly appears they are, it probably means that Victor Martinez would no longer be a viable option in Detroit. The Tigers have maintained that Alex Avila will be the primary catcher in 2011 and that their interest in Martinez would be as a right handed half of a platoon behind the plate, and a DH against right handed pitchers. In other words, Dunn and Martinez are mutually exclusive; you cannot employ both players on the same team.

But here’s the thing, and there’s really no getting around this, the Tigers haven’t had a quality left handed power hitter since Tony Clark left town. Dave Dombrowski has stated that he’s looking for middle-of-the-order bats this winter, but he didn’t specify right or left handed. The way things are shaping up, you can bet that left handed power is priority one for Detroit right now. Martinez is the better pure hitter, but Dunn has exponentially more thunder in his bat. The Tigers will do their best to get one of these two players and right now, it looks like they prefer Dunn.

Maybe the biggest hangup that fans seem to be having over the rumored pursuit of Dunn is that he would cost the Tigers their first-round draft pick. Martinez, another Type-A guy, would do the same. To be clear, teams can sign more than one Type-A free agent. The highest ranked of those signings would cost a first round pick, the next highest ranked would cost that team’s second round choice and so on and so forth. Given that Dombrowski plans to be aggressive in pursuing big bats, everyone in the organization is already well aware that the first round choice next year is gone. It’s just the cost of doing business at the high-end of the free agent pool.

Dombrowski loves to be aggressive early in the off-season and his pursuit of Dunn, following the Benoit signing, shows that this year is no different. He’ll do his best to get Dunn (or Martinez) signed as quickly as possible. Once that move is made, don’t be surprised to see them then turn to another big bat, this time in the outfield.

Dombrowski has been tight-lipped, as is his way, about his interest in other players, but I would think that Jayson Werth (another Type-A) may be next in Dombrowski’s cross-hares. If the Tigers strike out on Werth, Ordonez becomes a plan-b option for right field.

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