Reports have surfaced that the Chicago White Sox have signed free agent first baseman Adam Dunn to a four-year, $56 million deal. After reading that statement, a collective sigh may have been audible on the other side of town, though each individual may have had a different reason for joining the chorus.
On the one hand, Adam Dunn is a consistent left-handed power hitter that would have looked great in the middle of the Cubs lineup. On the other hand, Dunn is not exactly known as great defender at any position and will not only cost the Sox a reported average of $14 million per year, but also a first round draft pick in 2011.
Does this signing really affect the Cubs, though? Not necessarily.
Had the Cubs made this move, their offense would have been immediately upgraded. But they would have also added the second-most error prone first baseman in the majors from 2010 to the third-most error prone team in the majors from 2010, cost themselves a second round draft pick (their first round draft pick is protected) and likely committed themselves to too much salary to add a quality arm to the rotation or bullpen.
It is precisely that second set of reasons that led me to believe that Dunn was not a serious target for the team in the first place.
What his signing most definitely will do is set a reference point for negotiations with other free agent first basemen. Although I'm sure that a $14 million salary isn't too surprising to anyone, the contract should be a valid counter-argument for teams to use in contrast to the rather large salaries owed to Ryan Howard over the next seven years.
Should the Cubs have made a push for Adam Dunn?
For players and agents that were hoping to capitalize on Howard's gargantuan extension, it may provide a reality check. For the Cubs and other teams looking to sign a first baseman, it may quicken negotiations.
Of course, with Dunn off the market, there's a chance that teams could scramble for the first basemen that remain, bumping up their offers in the process. Since the Cubs are trying to control costs and add a few key pieces to their puzzle, such circumstances wouldn't be ideal and may shrink the pool of players that they're negotiating with.
What would be ideal for a cost conscious club are negotiations with more cost-effective options concluding before the bigger fish finalize their contracts. It's for that exact reason that Scott Boras prefers to drag out negotiations for his clients as long as possible.
If a few more of the bigger names fly off the board, then the best move might be to wait until most first base positions are filled across the league, reducing competition to a minimum and increasing the restlessness of free agents, and hope that a good option remains. Until that point, however, it might be wise to at least entertain the idea of striking quickly.
What remains to be seen and may, to a certain extent, counteract the point that I just made is that the signing of Dunn might increase the likelihood of Paul Konerko going elsewhere. Although I have no expectation of the Cubs pursuing the soon-to-be 35-year-old, other teams will be making a stronger push for him, lessening the market pressures that would normally be expected with Dunn's absence.
If, on the other hand, Konerko were to re-sign with the White Sox, the situation would be reversed. With, for all intents and purposes, one first base position filled by two first basemen, supply would be shrinking at a faster rate than demand and may cue the start of the aforementioned scramble.
In the end, however, there are still going to be plenty of available first basemen on the market, so any effects that are seen this year will be less than they would be in other years. The exact effects that this will have on the market should be much clearer in a few days, assuming that the reports are accurate, but the affect that this signing has on the Cubs will most likely be minimal.
In the off chance that a run on first baseman does occur, though, look for the Cubs to either sign a first baseman at the Winter Meetings in Orlando next week or wait out the market with Tyler Colvin as their backup plan.