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Adam Dunn agrees to deal with White Sox

Adam Dunn had expressed his desire to finish his career in Washington, but on Thursday he decided to move on.  In compensation for losing Dunn, the Nationals will receive the White Sox's first-round draft pick, 23rd overall, in the 2011 draft.
Adam Dunn had expressed his desire to finish his career in Washington, but on Thursday he decided to move on. In compensation for losing Dunn, the Nationals will receive the White Sox's first-round draft pick, 23rd overall, in the 2011 draft. (Ann Heisenfelt/Associated Press)
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By Adam Kilgore
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, December 3, 2010; 12:32 AM

Adam Dunn wanted to make his home in Washington, wanted to play for the Washington Nationals for the rest of his career. That's what he decided last winter. He enjoyed his teammates, fans appreciated him and his family loved the area. "There's no question," Ryan Zimmerman said. "He wanted to be here."

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But Dunn found a different team, in a different city, far more willing to match his contract demands, and so Dunn will now hit his home runs for the Chicago White Sox. On Thursday, Dunn agreed to a four-year, $56 million contract with the White Sox, pending a physical, according to a baseball source. The deal closes the door for the Nationals to re-sign their best slugger over the past two seasons and one of their most popular players, both among fans and teammates.

The White Sox and Dunn's agents agreed to the rough outline of the deal late Wednesday night, the source said, and finalized the deal Thursday afternoon. Dunn, 31, will move on to Chicago after drilling 76 home runs in his two seasons in Washington.

"I'd be disappointed for me," said Zimmerman, the Nationals third baseman and the face of their franchise. "I'm very happy for him. Obviously, if he's going to go there, he's going to get a four-year deal, and that's what he deserves. He doesn't get the amount of respect he deserves for what he does every year.

"There's no question he wanted to be here. So it's unfortunate. I couldn't be happier for him that someone's recognizing his work."

Both Dunn and the Nationals publicly expressed the desire to strike a contract extension before last spring training. The discussions never gained momentum. Dunn hoped for the four-year deal he eventually received. In the last week of the regular season, the Nationals offered Dunn a three-year contract worth roughly $35 million. Dunn admitted during the season that the lack of an extension frustrated him.

"I think he has wanted to be in Washington," said Zimmerman, one of Dunn's closest friends. "From the last time we talked about baseball, the last day of the season, he said he would love to come back here. If they would just have given him a fair deal, he even would have probably gone a little bit cheaper to come with us. That's the business side."

Dunn's deal will force the Nationals to move on to their other free agent targets. The most likely free agent first basemen the team will pursue are Carlos Pena, who hit .196 with 28 home runs and a .325 on-base percentage in 2010 for the Tampa Bay Rays, and Adam LaRoche, who hit .261 with 25 home runs and a .320 on-base percentage for the Arizona Diamondbacks. Both are regarded as defensive upgrades over Dunn, who played as a full-time first baseman for the first time this past season.

In compensation for losing Dunn, the Nationals will receive the White Sox's first-round draft pick, 23rd overall, in the 2011 draft and an additional pick in the "sandwich round" between the first and second rounds. In effect, since they did not end up with Dunn, the Nationals chose the draft choices over what they could have received for Dunn in a trade this past summer.

Dunn anchored the Nationals' lineup from the moment he signed with the team in February 2009. He was a behemoth whose presence lent credibility and drew fan support even for a team that specialized in losing. His 354 home runs over the past decade rank fourth, behind only Alex Rodriguez, Albert Pujols and Jim Thome. During his time with the Nationals, only Pujols and Prince Fielder hit more homers.

Dunn's departure leaves a massive hole in their lineup and a scar for fans and teammates, who cherished not only his production but his affable presence in the clubhouse. Dunn's durability was often overlooked; since 2004, only Seattle's Ichiro Suzuki has appeared in more games. At Nationals Park late in the season, every Dunn at-bat was met with chants of "Sign Adam Dunn!"

Zimmerman both privately and publicly expressed his wish that the Nationals sign Dunn this season, with great frequency. But he did not lash out at the team's inability to re-sign Dunn and pledged his allegiance to the franchise.

"To me, this is the place where I want to be, where I want to be for the rest of my career," Zimmerman said. "The only reason I wouldn't want to play here is if I thought we didn't have a chance to win. . . . I still believe that we will."

Zimmerman was clearly frustrated, though, and it's a frustration that assuredly will represent the overwhelming majority of the team's fan base. "I hope that this plan they have intact ¿ I guess this is one of the years we were supposed to take that next step and become one of the teams that gets those free agent guys," Zimmerman said. "They've told us and the fans to be patient. Hopefully this is one of the years we start acquiring impact guys and taking the team to that next level."

Nationals notes: The Nationals did not tender contracts to starting pitcher Chien-Ming Wang, catcher Wil Nieves and reliever Joel Peralta, making them free agents. The team agreed to terms on one-year contracts with utility infielder Alberto Gonzalez and catcher Jesus Flores. John Lannan, Josh Willingham, Sean Burnett, Michael Morse and Doug Slaten could still go to arbitration.

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