In perusing the wOBA leaderboards on Fangraphs, as I am wont to do, I couldn't help but notice that Paul Konerko has remained in the top 10 in the American League even after a torrid April (.483 wOBA) that he couldn't possibly have maintained, sporting a mighty .411 mark. Though Konerko unsurprisingly fell back to earth and then some in May (.315), he resumed being a beast in June and has continued raking as he puts together what may end up being the finest season of his 14-year career.
I've made no secret of my desire to see Adam Dunn in pinstripes, and with Dunn once again approaching free agency this offseason I will continue to bang that drum, especially given that (a) Brett Gardner's pleasantly surprising season may compel the Yankees to stay away from Carl Crawford, despite everyone and their mother assuming Crawford to the Yanks was a foregone conclusion; (b) the Yankees are likely to have a gaping hole at designated hitter; and (c) if they don't in fact pursue Crawford they will almost certainly need another bat. And even if they do end up hauling Crawford in I'd still like to see them address the DH.
As much as I love The Stick, It seems incredibly unlikely that the Yankees will exercise Nick Johnson's mutual option (though as posited by RAB's Joe Pawlikowski in a recent chat, Nick the Injury could represent an interesting potential bench piece if the price was right) and even less likely that Lance Berkman would be brought back. Marcus Thames has done a very nice job in limited duty this season, and even though he's been an equal-opportunity masher (.392 wOBA vs. lefties; .363 vs. righties) despite being brought in primarily as a lefty-killer, he's unlikely to continue defying his platoon split, especially in a full-time role.
I've seen a handful of Yankee experts opine that the team may opt to keep the DH available to rotate the team's veterans in 2011, but while that's worked to some extent this season (the Yankees have received a .355 wOBA out of their designated hitters in 2010; good for the 4th-best total in the AL) I still think it's ludicrous to punt the DH -- a lineup slot solely designed to generate offense -- in favor of giving Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter et. al. the occasional day of rest. Going with the rotating DH not only ensures that nonexistent sticks like Ramiro Pena's get to waste far more at-bats than they should, but also disregards another .020 to .030 potential wOBA points depending on which full-time DH you're hypothetically not signing.
Additionally, the Yankees have experienced a bit of a power outage this season. I know offensive numbers are slightly depressed league-wide, but this 2010 Yankee team has not bashed the ball with the regularity the lineup is capable of. If the season ended today, the Yankees would tally their lowest team SLG (.440) in 10 years, save for the injury-riddled, slump-ridden and best-left-forgotten 2008 campaign (.427). That's quite the dropoff from the team that led the world in slugging in 2009, with a beastly .478 mark.
Adam Dunn is the perfect player for the Yankees -- an ideal blend of power and patience -- and they are obviously aware of this, as they inquired about acquiring Dunn prior to the trade deadline only to find that the Nationals' requests were not in line with what they were hoping to pay. I was desperate for the Yankees to sign Dunn in the '08-'09 offseason, and was baffled that he remained on the market until just before spring training. Of course, with Hideki Matsui in tow there wasn't exactly an obvious spot for Dunn, but I figured the Yankees could figure out some way to slot 40 home runs and 100 walks into their lineup.
Coming into 2011 there will be a spot for Dunn, and the Yankees really should be all over him. Dunn only cost $10 million a year when Mike Rizzo signed him, although with a somewhat improved economy and an increased number of suitors this past trade deadline the Big Donkey may not come as cheaply this time around. Then again, how much can a team realistically pay a guy who you don't want anywhere near a glove and who's going to contribute nothing in the field? Fangraphs has Dunn's season being worth $13.3 million thus far; it seems like $13 million would probably be the maximum price you could pay for a designated hitter. I don't see anyone in baseball paying Dunn $15 million a year given that he comes with significantly negative defense.
However, if the Yankees either decide that Dunn's ask is too high or lose out to another team on Adam, perhaps Paul Konerko -- coming off a five-year deal in which he was paid $12 million per -- becomes a comparable option.
Here's a look at what Dunn and Konerko have done in 2010 through last night's games, along with their career numbers:
Though Konerko's having a career year, he'll also be entering his age 35 season, while Dunn will be heading into his age 31 season, so Konerko would likely be slightly cheaper. Historically Konerko will walk less than Dunn, but also put far more balls in play, hence the higher career batting average. You could also plug Konerko in at first base in a pinch.
However, despite a down year by his standards, Adam Dunn is an offensive monster. Dunn's accumulated nearly as high a WAR total as Konerko despite playing four fewer seasons; he currently leads the NL in Isolated Power and has been in the top 12 in that category every year since 2005; he has a superb career walk rate of 16%; and is a career .384 wOBA hitter. I would very much like for Dunn to remain the Yankees' top offensive priority this coming offseason.
But if the Yankees can't get Dunn, they could do worse than taking a long look at Paul Konerko, a pretty comparable player who is currently out-Dunning Dunn at his own game. I'm not terribly familiar with Chicago's intentions, although I'd imagine they'd look to bring a cornerstone of their offense back to the team he's been with for the last 12 years, so that could make landing Konerko somewhat difficult. Regardless, Konerko and his career .365 wOBA make for an intriguing possibility as next year's designated hitter.
Edited at 3:15pm to add a link to a table of the Yankees' year-by-year team SLG back to 1994 and corresponding MLB and AL ranks. As you can see, the Yankee offenses of 2002, 2007 and 2009 were quite the powerhouses.