WASHINGTON -- Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman and general manager Mike Rizzo were both happy for first baseman Adam Dunn, who signed a four-year deal with the White Sox on Friday.
"The Washington Nationals wish Adam Dunn and his family the best of luck and goodwill in Chicago," Rizzo said in a statement on Friday. "Adam contributed much to the Nationals and to the Washington, D.C., community. He will be missed, but will remain an important figure in the early history of this franchise and will always be a part of the Nationals baseball family."
However, Zimmerman acknowledged that he is concerned about the Nats. How is Washington going replace Dunn in the lineup? It was Dunn who protected Zimmerman in the order.
Zimmerman will be the first to say that he was able to win the National League Silver Slugger Award for third basemen the past two years because Dunn was hitting behind him.
"I'm very concerned -- I think these are supposed to be the years we take a step forward and become more competitive," Zimmerman said via phone. "We are supposed to be becoming a team that goes out and gets more free agents. To not be able to sign the best free agent that was on your team to begin with is tough. ... It's going to be hard to replace someone [like Dunn] that is in the middle of the order.
"I hope -- just like everyone hopes -- that the front office has a plan in place in the next week or two when all of this stuff goes on. Hopefully, this will all make sense."
While no one questioned Dunn's ability as a hitter, there were always questions about his defense. People in the Nationals' front office believed he was a defensive liability, but Zimmerman argues that Dunn wasn't as poor in the field as many believed. Zimmerman indicated that Dunn improved at first base by the second half of the 2010 season.
"Adam is one of the most underrated players in the game," Zimmerman said. "Defensively, I think a lot of people think back to when he was in the outfield. He will be the first to tell you that he wasn't a very good outfielder. He moved to first. I think the second half of last year, he started to get better.
"My biggest comparison is Ryan Howard, who I love to death, but Ryan Howard had one more error than Adam Dunn last year. You never hear anyone talk about Ryan Howard's defense. If you put Adam Dunn in the Phillies' lineup, his offense is going to be as good as [Howard's]. All of a sudden, you have the same player, and Ryan Howard makes $25 million a year."
Zimmerman is aware that the Nationals have a plan in place, trying to replace Dunn with free agents such as Carlos Pena or Adam LaRoche. They could even consider trading for a first baseman like James Loney. But Zimmerman still wonders if it was worth letting Dunn head to Chicago.
"I think myself, including the fans and a lot of other people, are wondering and hoping that the plan is there," Zimmerman said. "If it's not there, this is something we are going to look back on and think, 'Why we didn't we take care of [Dunn]?'"
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time. He also could be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.