Report: Nationals unlikely to re-sign Adam Dunn because of defense (and one scout is insane)

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Reports about contract talks between Adam Dunn and the Nationals have varied so much throughout the season that it’s tough to know what to believe at this point, but today Ben Goessling of MASNSports.com writes that “sources familiar with the team’s thinking” believe “they’re likely to let him walk” as a free agent.
According to Goessling “the team continues to view Dunn’s defense at first base as a sticking point, and is reluctant to give him the four-year deal he prefers because of it.” Goessling quotes an opposing team’s scout as saying that “the only person in the front office who wants to re-sign him is the owner.”
The same scout went on to make the absolutely absurd claim that Dunn’s defense at first base “costs them half a run a game” and “is worse than it looks on paper.” In other words, there’s a person paid to watch and evaluate professional baseball players who thinks Adam Dunn has cost the Nationals about 80 runs with his defense this season. To put that in some context, the Nationals have allowed a grand total of 724 runs this season.
Not only has no first baseman in baseball history ever cost his team anywhere near 80 runs in a season defensively, you can be pretty certain no player at any position has ever been 80 runs below average in a single year. It’s a ridiculous assertion with no basis in reality that gets passed off as something other than worthless by virtue of the presumption that every scout knows what he’s talking about on all things baseball.
If you’re curious, Ultimate Zone Rating pegs Dunn as 1.9 runs below average on defense this season, which ranks eighth-worst among full-time first basemen. Prince Fielder has the worst first baseman UZR at -9.2 runs. Looking at all positions, Carlos Quentin has the worst UZR at 17.6 runs below average, followed by Jonny Gomes at -14.7, Matt Kemp at -14.6, and Carlos Lee at -13.9. In other words, according to UZR the four worst defenders and the worst defensive first baseman have been 70 runs below average this season … combined.
Whether or not the Nationals re-sign Dunn, they should consider themselves lucky not to employ that scout.

Zack Cozart thinks the way the Rays have been using Sergio Romo is bad for baseball

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The Rays started Sergio Romo on back-to-back days and if that sounds weird to you, you’re not alone. Romo, of course, was the star closer for the Giants for a while, helping them win the World Series in 2012 and ’14. He’s been a full-time reliever dating back to 2006, when he was at Single-A.

In an effort to prevent lefty Ryan Yarbrough from facing the righty-heavy top of the Angels’ lineup (Zack Cozart, Mike Trout, Justin Upton), Romo started Saturday’s game, pitching the first inning before giving way to Yarbrough in the second. Romo struck out the side, in fact. The Rays went on to win 5-3.

The Rays did it again on Sunday afternoon, starting Romo. This time, he got four outs before giving way to Matt Andriese. Romo walked two without giving up a hit while striking out three. The Angels managed to win 5-2 however.

Despite Sunday’s win, Cozart wasn’t a happy camper with the way the Rays used Romo. Via Fabian Ardaya of The Athletic, Cozart said, “It was weird … It’s bad for baseball, in my opinion … It’s spring training. That’s the best way to explain it.”

It’s difficult to see merit in Cozart’s argument. It’s not like the Rays were making excessive amounts of pitching changes; they used five on Saturday and four on Sunday. The games lasted three hours and three hours, 15 minutes, respectively. The average game time is exactly three hours so far this season. I’m having trouble wondering how else Cozart might mean the strategy is bad for baseball.

It seems like the real issue is that Cozart is afraid of the sport changing around him. The Rays, like most small market teams, have to find their edges in slight ways. The Rays aren’t doing this blindly; the strategy makes sense based on their opponents’ starting lineup. The idea of valuing on-base percentage was scoffed at. Shifting was scoffed at and now every team employs them to some degree. Who knows if starting a reliever for the first three or four outs will become a trend, but it’s shortsighted to write it off at first glance.