Athletics' move for Adam Dunn helps lineup depth, restores team power
In an effort to boost a flagging offense, the Oakland Athletics made a deal in the final moments of the waiver trade deadline, acquiring designated hitter Adam Dunn from the Chicago White Sox for a minor league pitcher. The burly Dunn, who has 460 career home runs, should help restore some of the power that the A's lost when they dealt Yoenis Cespedes to the Red Sox for Jon Lester one month ago. He should also bolster the offense of an Athletics team that's fallen flat in August, going 12-16 on the month and sliding out of the American League West lead, where they now trail the Angels by four games.
Though Dunn has been limited to part-time DH duty with the White Sox in his fourth season with the team (and 14th overall), he's been productive, posting a .220/.340/.433 line and 117 OPS+ in 435 plate appearances and hitting 20 homers. A perfect example of a Three True Outcomes hitter, Dunn is all or nothing in his approach: 49.9 percent of Dunn's career plate appearances have resulted in a walk, strikeout or home run. Dunn has twice led the league in walks and four times led it in strikeouts, and only once has he struck out fewer than 100 times in a season — his 66-game rookie campaign in 2001, when he struck out 74 times. Of course, that makes Dunn an almost comically perfect fit with the A's, a team that's seemingly spent the last decade-plus trying as hard as it can to assemble a lineup of nine Dunns.
Though Dunn has hit a bit of a rough patch in August, with a .175/.221/.349 line in 68 plate appearances, he should be a good fit for an Oakland team that's struggled to score runs in the last month. Entering Sunday's game against the Angels, the A's have hit a mere .224/.304/.351 in 28 games, averaging just 3.64 runs per contest. Particularly worrisome for the A's is their slugging percentage; that .351 figure follows a month of July in which the team slugged .403. On the year, Oakland has slugged .394.
That dip in power has coincided with the team's trade of Cespedes, which forced manager Bob Melvin to re-jigger his lineup. Taking Cespedes' place in leftfield has been a platoon of Brandon Moss and Jonny Gomes (also acquired with Lester from Boston); Moss' move to left from first base has resulted in a combination there of Nate Freiman and backup catcher Stephen Vogt. Moss (.574 OPS in August) and Gomes (.600) haven't responded well to the change, though, and Vogt has hit a skid this month as well, with a .654 OPS since Aug. 1. What's been worse for the A's is that they've lost regular catcher John Jaso to a concussion, which cost them the ability to use Jaso or backup catcher Derek Norris in the team's DH rotation.
While Dunn can't fix the problem in leftfield — under no circumstances should Melvin try Dunn in the outfield, unless he wants to film the opposite of a Tom Emanski defensive drills video — he can at least settle the DH spot. Melvin has used mostly Jaso and Alberto Callaspo at DH, occasionally mixing in Moss and Coco Crisp. Now, he can simply pencil in Dunn against righthanders. And while Dunn is helpless against lefties (he's posted a .563 OPS against them this year), the A's are built to platoon at every opportunity. Against southpaws, Melvin can go with the switch-hitting Callaspo at DH; once Jaso's returned to full health, Melvin also has the option of using the righthanded Norris at DH.
Ideally for the A's, the addition of Dunn would give the team a regular lefthanded option at DH in Jaso's absence. And even if that doesn't end up being the case, Dunn cost the A's virtually nothing. He's a free agent at season's end, and the pitcher Oakland gave up for him, Nolan Sanburn, likely won't be missed. A second-round draft pick out of Arkansas in 2012, the 23-year-old Sanburn has been slow to climb the organizational ladder, spending all of 2014 in High-A. He's posted solid numbers there, striking out 73 in 71 1/3 innings, and came into the year ranked as Oakland's No. 11 prospect, according to Baseball Prospectus. But as a reliever who's old for his league, Sanburn is a piece the A's could easily afford to part with in exchange for Dunn.
While Dunn won't join the A's in time for their series finale against the Angels on Sunday afternoon, he'll get plenty of chances to help Oakland in the hunt for an AL West title. Of the Athletics' 27 remaining games this season, including Sunday's, 20 are against division opponents, including one last three-game set with the Angels in Oakland starting on Sept. 22. And Dunn will even get a chance to say goodbye to his former team: The A's play a four-game series against the White Sox in Chicago beginning on Sept. 8.