When the Nationals signed Adam Dunn this offseason, I looked at the signing as a positive for the Nationals. Even though there was no chance that the Nats would compete in 2009, I concluded that Dunn would give Nationals fans a reason to care and provide a strong power bat that the Nationals always lacked.
And you know what, Dunn has been very good at the dish this season. He is hitting .258 with 17 HRs, 45 RBI, and an impressive .396 OBP. Dunn leads the Nationals in home runs, RBIs, slugging %, and walks this season as the Nationals offense has taken steps forward in 2009. Perhaps Dunn's most important contribution to the Nationals has been providing protection for Ryan Zimmerman. The Nationals third baseman has thrived with Dunn hitting behind him and is currently putting up the best offensive numbers of his career.
But even with all the positives, this season cannot be considered a success for Dunn and the Nationals. The team has performed terribly so far this season and there is virtually no hope that the Nationals will even be remotely competitive this season. Considering that the Nationals committed $20 million to Dunn, there is no doubt that this season has been a colossal failure so far.
So as the Nationals look forward, there is no doubt that a major rebuilding effort needs to take place. There is a severe lack of talent within the Nationals organization right now that will make success difficult to obtain and sustain.
That brings us to the question at hand: should the Nationals trade Adam Dunn?
On one hand, the Nationals would be likely to bring back a nice package for Dunn considering his ability to get on base and power hitting ability. For all of Dunn's flaws (inability to hit in the clutch, terrible defense, lots of strikeouts), he can certainly help a team looking to make a push for the playoffs. Considering how few legitimate power hitters are usually available at the deadline, Dunn could be a major catch for the right team.
But on the other hand, Dunn is one of the few quality players, who the Nationals have signed through 2010. If they let him go now, the Nationals might not get another player of his caliber at the dish for years to come, which would leave Ryan Zimmerman unprotected and vulnerable in the lineup. The progress that Zimmerman has made this season must be taken into account when talking about Adam Dunn.
In the end, I'd argue that most of the Nationals roster can be had with the exception of Zimmerman, Zimmerman, Lannan, and Flores. The situation is that bad. So in regards to Dunn, there is no question that he can be had, but only at a high price that the Nationals feel comfortable with. GM Mike Rizzo certainly has his hands full with this team and if Dunn can bring back a quality package, then Rizzo will have no choice but to pull the trigger.