Adam Dunn at first base? Good luck with that, Washington

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Dunn.jpgSome fun Adam Dunn chatter in the past few days, with Nationals’ President Stan Kasten saying that if Dunner wants a contract extension in Washington, he’ll have to improve his defense at first base, where he’ll probably be assigned on a permanent basis going forward. Dunn, who is a pretty agreeable fellow, agreed, saying that he knows he needs to get better at first and will dedicate his spring training to doing so. Over the weekend, Nats’ manager Jim Riggleman gave what sounds like an overly-rosy assessment of where Dunn currently stands as a first baseman, basically saying that range is his only problem.

So, is there any hope at all for Adam Dunn, full-time first baseman?

Probably not.  Certainly not if you go by Fangraphs’ Ultimate Zone Rating — commonly abbreviated to UZR — which quantifies the number of runs above or below average a fielder is after accounting for both range and sure handedness.  No defense stat is perfect, but UZR is generally considered by those who care about such things to be pretty darn good.

Over the course of his career, Dunn has played approximately a full season’s worth of games at first base.  Dunn’s UZR over that time?  -17.9 per 150 games.  To put that in perspective, the worst first baseman in UZR per 150 games last season was Billy Butler at -7.4.  Only twice in the eight years for which Fangraphs has UZR data has anyone recorded a UZR/150 as bad as Adam Dunn’s career mark: Mike Jacobs in 2008 and Adam LaRoche in 2005, and both of those were severe outliers when compared to the rest of those guys’ careers.

I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that Adam Dunn will be the worst defensive first baseman in baseball in 2010. He may challenge for the title of all-time worst.  Perhaps he will do less damage there than he will in left field, but if the Nats have any plan for Dunn in 2010 that does not involve hoping he hits like crazy in April and May and trying to trade him to the AL in June, they’re nuts.

Blue Jays release John Axford

John Axford
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The Blue Jays have released right-handed reliever John Axford from his minor league contract, per an announcement on Saturday. Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi speculates that the move could provide an avenue for the club to rework Axford’s contract, but the Blue Jays have yet to confirm or deny the report.

Axford, 35, was dealt a blow on Thursday after getting diagnosed with a stress reaction in the olecranon bone of his right elbow. Elbow soreness dogged the right-hander through much of his time in camp, and although he was scheduled for a follow-up examination later this spring, a definite return date had not been established.

Prior to the diagnosis, Axford was tabbed for a setup role with the team in 2019. He pitched to mixed results in 2018 (thanks in part to a late-season fracture of his right fibula) with a 5.27 ERA, 4.9 BB/9, and 9.8 SO/9 through 54 2/3 innings with the Blue Jays and Dodgers. Now, however, it’s not certain that he’ll return to the mound this season in any capacity.

Axford isn’t the only reliever the Blue Jays have lost to injury lately, either, as right-handers Ryan Tepera and Bud Norris have been sidelined with right elbow inflammation and forearm fatigue, respectively. Per Davidi, the Blue Jays offered Norris a $100,000 retention bonus to prevent him from opting out of the minor league contract he signed in February.