2011 MLB Free Agency: Five DHs More Valuable Than Adam Dunn In 2011

Daniel LewigCorrespondent IDecember 3, 2010

2011 MLB Free Agency: Five DHs More Valuable Than Adam Dunn In 2011

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    MINNEAPOLIS, MN - OCTOBER 6: Jim Thome #25 of the Minnesota Twins speaks with home plate umpire Jerry Crawford #2 during game one of the ALDS against the New York Yankees on October 6, 2010 at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Fosli
    Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

    Adam Dunn finally got his wish.  When Dunn's signing with the Chicago White Sox becomes official, he will have the longest contract of his career.  Last time he went through free agency, he could only find a two-year deal.  But, thanks to GM Kenny Williams, Dunn has long-term security through 2014.

    And Williams will have another albatross contract.

    Before the ink is even dry on Dunn's deal, Williams will be stuck with a contract he can't move.  Dunn is a great power hitter.  This is not in question.  But Dunn wasn't even the best left-handed power hitter available.  And some of Dunn's numbers are cause for long-term concern.

    In 2010, Dunn hit .280 against right-handed pitching.  But he only hit .199 versus lefties.  His numbers from 2007-2009 versus left-handed pitching: .268/.195/.238.  Dunn isn't a complete player and yet he's going to be banking the highest number of any designated hitter.

    Another cause for concern is that after six straight seasons of 100 or more walks, Dunn's free bags fell to 77 in 2010 and his on-base percentage dropped nearly 50 points from 2009 to 2010.  His strikeouts also increased to 199, up from 177 in 2009 and 164 in 2008.

    That being said, here are five players who will provide better bang for the buck for their future 2011 teams.

1) Jim Thome

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    CHICAGO - AUGUST 10: Jim Thome #25 of the Minnesota Twins prepares to bat against the Chicago White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field on August 10, 2010 in Chicago, Illinois. The Twins defeated the White Sox 12-6. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    This Minnesota masher provided more power per at bat than Dunn in 2010.  Thome's 25 home runs account for one home runs per every 11 at bats.  Dunn hit a homer once every 15 at-bats.  Minnesota paid Thome $8.5 million less than Dunn in 2010.

    That's a lot of money saved.

    Even with Thome getting a raise this year into the $3-to-4 million range, he still will be making at least $10 million less than Dunn.  This for a player who has had a .360 or better on-base percentage since 1994.

    The only caveat is that Thome doesn't hit lefties any more.  The good news is neither does Dunn.  But when investing in Thome, a team can afford to find a lefty-hitting platoon partner such as Marcus Thames (.302 avg, .355 OBP vs. LHP) to combo him with and get even more production, rather than trying to justify sitting a $14 million player against lefties.  Thames made $900,000 last season with the New York Yankees.

2) Russell Branyan

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    OAKLAND, CA - SEPTEMBER 06:  Russell Branyan #30 of the Seattle Mariners bats against the Oakland Athletics at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on September 6, 2010 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    Seattle's first baseman/designated hitter Russell Branyan matched Dunn in the power department against right-handers. Both hit a home run every 15 at-bats.  Branyan's challenge has been his health.  Back problems have been reoccurring for the Seattle slugger and, at age 35, don't expect his health to get any better.  But when used properly, Branyan is still valuable.

    And Seattle got a lot of mileage out of Branyan in 2010.

    Against right-handed pitching, Branyan hit .254 with a .352 on-base percentage.  In 2009 Branyan hit .267 with a .363 on-base percentage.  Dunn in the last two seasons versus right-handed pitching hit .286 with a .379 on-base percentage and .267 with a .414 on-base percentage.  Branyan's salary for the last two seasons was  2.5 million dollars.  Dunn's was $17.5 million more than Branyan.

    With a solid lefty-hitting platoon partner, a team can get nearly Dunn-like production for one-third of the cost.

3) Derrek Lee

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    ATLANTA - OCTOBER 10:  Derrek Lee #27 of the Atlanta Braves reacts after striking out against the San Francisco Giants during Game Three of the NLDS of the 2010 MLB Playoffs at Turner Field on October 10, 2010 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Despite battling a thumb injury in 2010, Derrek Lee still managed to play in over 140 games.  This is something Lee has done in nine of the last 10 seasons.  What's more is Lee isn't showing signs of slowing down.

    Lee's injury hurt his power production last season, but only in the first half.  Either through finding a way to play through the pain or adjusting to the injury, Lee bounced back after the All-Star break to hit .298 with a .373 on-base percentage.  Lee only hit 23 extra-base hits in the first half, but he hit 31 in the second half despite having 100 fewer at-bats.

    Adam Dunn hit 76 extra-base hits in 2010, 67 in 2009 and 63 in 2008.  Lee, from 2007-2009, hit 73, 64 and 66 extra-base hits.  Lee can also do something that Dunn cannot—hit lefties.  Lee hit over .300 against lefties in 2010.

    Some lucky team will be able to pick up Lee in a bounce-back season for less than half the cost of what Dunn will earn in 2011.

4) Hideki Matsui

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    ARLINGTON, TX - OCTOBER 01:  Designated hitter Hideki Matsui #55 of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim grounds out in the first inning against the Texas Rangers at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington on October 1, 2010 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Mart
    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    Godzilla is still alive and well and produced solid numbers across-the-board for the Angels in 2010.  Matsui doesn't provide quite as much power as Dunn (46 extra-base hits compared to Dunn's 73 in 2010), but he also is better at putting the ball in play than Dunn.  Matsui has had six consecutive seasons of fewer than 100 strikeouts.  In 2010, Matsui hit .274 with a .361 on-base percentage. 

    Last year, Matsui struggled with lefties (not as much as Dunn, however) but has hit them well for his career.  Here's another bat that should make his next team very happy, while being paid one-third or so of what Dunn will earn in 2011.

5) Vladimir Guerrero

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    ARLINGTON, TX - OCTOBER 31:  Vladimir Guerrero #27 of the Texas Rangers looks on during batting practice against the San Francisco Giants in Game Four of the 2010 MLB World Series at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington on October 31, 2010 in Arlington, Texas.
    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Like Dunn, Guerrero shouldn't be anywhere near a baseball field.  But as a designated hitter, Guerrero still is dangerous.  Guerrero posted an impressive .300 average, with a .345 on-base percentage.  Guerrero hit 29 home runs and drove in 115 runs.  Dunn's career-high in RBI is 106.

    Guerrero should be available for about half (or less) of Dunn's annual salary and will still provide 75 percent, if not more, of Dunn's production.