02/12/09 7:12 PM EST
Dunn a big gun for Nationals' lineup
Left-handed slugger adept at going deep and getting on base
By Bill Ladson / MLB.com
Dunn, who will wear uniform No. 32, acknowledged that he wanted to go to a contender, but the offers were not to his liking and he did not want to become a designated hitter in the American League. He feels he is healthy enough to play better defense.
Dunn also said that talks with manager Manny Acta, general manager Jim Bowden, outfielder Austin Kearns and third baseman Ryan Zimmerman convinced him to sign with the Nationals.
"I knew the talent that was here," Dunn said. 'They knew I wanted to be here. I wanted to play with a contender, but I didn't realize how many injuries [the Nationals had]. So when I did my research, I realized this is a very young team with a lot of injuries. These guys have matured in a year and everybody is injury-free. It's going to be fun. I promise."
Asked if he was disappointed that the economy played a role in him not getting the offer he wanted, Dunn said, "It wasn't so much the money; it was the length of the terms. It did play a part, but it's sad for other people. It's sad for our parents. This economy thing is real. It isn't something that is made up. I'm sure that it affects everybody. It's a bad situation. I'm not going to sit here and complain about it."
Dunn, who will join Zimmerman in the middle of the lineup, has hit at least 40 home runs for five straight years. Although he has a .247 career batting average, he's been on base at a lifetime .381 clip and can play both left field and first base.
"He is a very talented player," Zimmerman said. "He has real good power, gets on base and can do a lot of things to help us win. It will definitely help me to have a guy like that behind me. The pitchers don't want to walk me to get to him.
"He is very good at drawing walks and getting on base."
But Kearns said Dunn is passionate about the game and plays hard every night.
"He is very competitive and he brings that passion every day," Kearns said. "He is a vocal guy and very honest. I think people will appreciate it. He definitely brings the presence of a big dude. He goes about his business and likes to have fun."
Dunn also revealed that he is 100 percent healthy for the first time in at least two years. He had right knee surgery in September 2007, and it took him some time for the knee to recover.
"The knee still wasn't right [after surgery]," Dunn said. "I just rehabbed the knee. It's so much stronger. There are no problems. This is the best that I've felt in five or six years. I'm excited."
The Nationals have been looking for a left-handed-hitting slugger since the 2008 season ended. Their top choice was switch-hitting first baseman Mark Teixeira, but he ended up signing with the Yankees in December.
The team then targeted Dunn, and it seemed the two sides had reached a stalemate in mid-January. It was reported that Dunn exceeded the Nationals' price range, and it appeared that the Dodgers and Angels may have had the inside track to sign him. However, things started to heat up between Dunn and the Nationals on Monday night.
"We wanted to get a big bat in the middle of our lineup that could drive in 100 runs and hit 30-40 home runs," Bowden said. "We didn't want someone with potential. We want someone who is going to [hit] home runs, someone that has done it, proven it. We also wanted more balance. We need another left-handed bat. We are too right-handed. That was a critical part of this.
"It was a long, drawn-out negotiation and both sides were working hard to try and find common ground. Finally, on Monday, a new idea was brought up and it was kind of embraced by both sides, and it was over. We were trying to find compromise the whole time."
The acquisition of Dunn means that the Nationals will likely make additional moves. Dunn could play the outfield, which would create huge logjam. Prior to Dunn's arrival, Washington already had three outfielders -- Elijah Dukes, Kearns and Josh Willingham -- vying for two spots. Acta said after the news conference that Lastings Milledge will be the center fielder entering Spring Training.
Dunn will also compete with Nick Johnson at first base. During the offseason, the Nationals tried to trade Johnson, who will not accept a role on the bench. There was talk of the Athletics having interest in Johnson after Oakland asked for Johnson's medical records.
Johnson is skilled with the bat and glove, but the Nationals have grown frustrated because he is often injured. In the past two years, Johnson has played in just 38 games. A broken right leg forced him to miss the entire 2007 season, and he saw limited action last year because of a right wrist injury.
"I really hope Nick is healthy," said Dunn. "He is a great player. We know the outfielders are great players. I'm glad I don't have to make the decisions. But I'm just going to go out and just play. Wherever I fit, I will play."
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.