by Adam Kilgore
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, September 19, 2010; 7:48 PM
PHILADELPHIA -- Adam Dunn will arrive at Nationals Park on Monday for the final homestand of the Washington Nationals' season, what could be 10 of Dunn's final 13 games wearing a Nationals uniform. Dunn still does not want it to be goodbye, nor does he believe it will be.
In a conversation Sunday, Dunn, a pending free agent, reaffirmed his desire to remain with Washington and expressed confidence, based on recent progress between his representatives and the team, that he will sign a new contract with the Nationals. Speaking before the team's 7-6 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies on Sunday, Dunn was clear: He thinks he will be a National next season.
"I do," Dunn said. "More than I did a month ago. Talks have picked back up. We'll see what happens. We're obviously talking. We're going to work something out, I think."
The Nationals will have until 15 days after the World Series ends to exclusively negotiate with Dunn. He did not rule out reaching an agreement before that time. However, few players eligible for free agency reach this point without exercising the option.
"Now, there's no advantage" to signing immediately, Dunn said. "I guess there'd be a disadvantage, really. I'm in no hurry now."
Dunn is not certain he'll end the year without a contract extension -- a deal "could happen today," he said. But he sees the most likely scenario as him finishing the season without a contract, eventually entering free agency and then re-signing with the Nationals.
"Going to free agency doesn't mean I'm leaving here. I'm sure whenever the season is over, I'll have, whatever it is, a month. If things haven't worked out here, yeah, it's going to go to free agency. But that doesn't mean I'm not coming here."
Dunn's defense, for both sides, is a key factor. Dunn wants to continue playing first base, which he played full time this year for the first time, and ruled out signing with an American League team as a designated hitter. "I'm still pretty fine with playing the field every day," he said.
Saturday, Dunn had "his best defensive game of the season," Manager Jim Riggleman said. He has shown progress this year, but most advanced defensive statistics place him near the bottom of the league among first basemen. He feels as if he has made strides and, at 30, will continue to improve.
"The more you play, the more comfortable you feel over there," Dunn said. "I'm only going to get better over there the more that I play. There's still balls off the bat that are hit and I don't even make a move on. That's going to come with repetition and seeing it off the bat."
Dunn ranks second in the National League with 35 home runs and has a .359 on-base percentage and a .541 slugging percentage, which ranks fifth in the NL. The Nationals biggest challenge if they lost Dunn would be replacing his production. Dunn hopes -- and believes -- they won't have to.