He is a giant -- a baseball Bunyan who swings a Louisville Slugger instead of an ax. Atop his bulk sits a genial, almost goofy face under a mop of unkempt curly hair that looks as if Macy's decided to make a Thanksgiving Day Parade balloon of Ricky Bobby.
He does enough things wrong on a baseball field that he seems to be available every July, and, by every July 31, all you hear about are the flaws in his game and the reasons not to trade for him. Last June, he was publicly ripped on a talk radio show by the general manager of a team that really could have used him.
He is Adam Dunn. And he is exactly what the Mets need.
The Mets right now have more holes than a Dunkin' Donuts dumpster. Injuries have shredded their lineup. People ripped Joe Girardi on Friday for bringing in Mariano Rivera in the eighth inning, but he was bringing in his best pitcher to face the only two dangerous hitters the Mets have -- Carlos Beltran and David Wright -- with no guarantee that those guys would bat again that night. The move said less about Girardi as a strategist than it did about the Mets right now.
Every night, they are using a deficient offensive player at first base, second base, shortstop, right field, left field and catcher. When you think about it, it's a miracle they're winning any games at all.
So what they need above all else is a difference-making offensive player. Sure, they're thin in the rotation, and the loss of J.J. Putz hurts the 2009 bullpen blueprint. But Citi Field is such a pitcher's paradise that they should be able to cobble together enough of a staff to get through the season. Where they fall short is on offense -- specifically the ability to hit the ball over the outfield fence.
In 61 games so far this year, the Mets have hit a total of 40 home runs. Among Major League teams, only Pittsburgh and San Francisco have hit fewer.
In 62 games so far this year, Adam Dunn has hit 17 home runs, including one against Johan Santana that sailed over the bridge in right-center field at Citi Field and would have taken out at least three chop shops if the brick structure of the new ballpark hadn't impeded its vicious and terrifying flight.
This is what Adam Dunn does. He hits home runs. He hits 40 home runs a year. In fact, for the past four years, he's hit exactly 40 home runs every year. (He hit 46 in 2004.) He's currently on pace to hit 44 in 2009. At this moment, he has more home runs than his pitiful team has wins.
He is undoubtedly obtainable. He's making $8 million this year and $12 million next year. The Nationals' de facto GM, Mike Rizzo, is not the GM who signed him. Rizzo is trying to sign Stephen Strasburg, and at the rate the Nats are going, he's going to need money to sign next year's No. 1 overall draft pick as well. For that reason, you have to believe the Mets could get Dunn for less in terms of prospects than it would take to get somebody like Matt Holliday. The question is whether they're willing to assume all of that salary, especially for 2010. That's a question for Mets ownership, of course, but remember, Carlos Delgado's salary comes off the books next year.
Dunn plays first base and the outfield corners. He plays both of them poorly, and this is a knock against him. He is a rotten defensive player. But the Mets this year have used Delgado, Fernando Tatis, Daniel Murphy and Gary Sheffield at those positions. It's not as if they'd be replacing Barry Bonds and Keith Hernandez with some iron-gloved donkey. How much worse can Dunn be than what they've been going with already?
The other big knock is that Dunn strikes out too much. And yes, he strikes out a ton. Just 29 years old and in his ninth Major League season, he already ranks 91st all time in strikeouts. He set a big league record in 2004 with 195.
But that single-season total has already been surpassed four times since, including by three different players (Ryan Howard, Jack Cust and Mark Reynolds) just last year. Strikeouts are an outdated taboo. Dunn's career on-base percentage is .382. This year, it's .396 -- a figure that ranks 13th in the National League and would rank third on the Mets behind Wright and Beltran. Who cares how you make your outs when you make them that rarely?
Some (including the aforementioned GM, Toronto's J.P. Ricciardi) say he's not a winning player, that he lacks a passion for the game. Whatever. He's played his whole career in Cincinnati, Arizona and Washington. How can we know?
And he's not a fan of New York. I know this from talking to him about it. He's pure Texas, and he doesn't enjoy his visits to New York City. But he wouldn't be the first guy who felt that way and ended up making it here.
Bottom line: The Mets don't have the luxury of being able to only hunt for a wart-free solution. They need somebody who can hit home runs. There are few in the game who are better at it than Dunn is, and there is none beside him who is that and also available.
Adam Dunn is the great big solution to the Mets' biggest problem, and they should do what it takes to get him.