Discussion: The Nationals’ 2011 First Baseman

Adam Dunn's defensive limitations are under scrutiny again today after a pair of plays he failed to make in last night's 1-0 loss to Philadelphia, writes Ben Goessling of MASN.com. It's "no secret," according to Goessling, that as the Nationals decide whether or not to extend Dunn past this season, his defense is one of their primary concerns.

Dunn's prowess at the plate is undisputed; with 31 home runs and a slash line of .266/.354/.557 this year, The 30-year-old is poised to match or top last year's .267/.398/.529, 38-homer campaign. And his defense at first base has actually improved, according to UZR. Playing the infield on a full-time basis for the first time this season, Dunn's UZR/150 is only slightly below average, at -1.3. Still, UZR is a statistic best evaluated over multiple seasons, and Dunn's career numbers aren't flattering.

It could cost Washington in excess of $40MM to lock up Dunn to a multi-year extension, and it's unclear whether they'd want to commit that money to a player some observers feel is more suited to DHing. Additionally, Dunn projects as a Type A free agent and could net the Nats compensation picks if he signs elsewhere. As MLBTR's Tim Dierkes noted, the club figures to offer Dunn arbitration even if they think he may accept, since they could live with having him for one year at around $15MM.

Goessling indicates that the Nats would have some interest in Carlos Pena, who will also be a free agent this winter. Pena isn't as dangerous offensively as Dunn, but he has a similar power stroke and is more adept in the field. Other above-average defensive players available this offseason in an overcrowded first base market include Derrek Lee and Lyle Overbay. Both players have struggled offensively at times this year, but are still helping their teams defensively.

Will concerns about Dunn's defense mean the Nats let him walk this winter? How much money and how many years would you commit to the slugger if you were running the organization? Or would you elect to pursue another corner infielder instead?

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