Ryan Zimmerman has been lobbying the Nationals to re-sign Adam Dunn for months. That's nothing new.
But each time the Nats' No. 3 hitter talks about their now-free agent No. 4 hitter, his message seems to get stronger. And last night after participating in the club's new uniform unveiling at Nationals Park, he made his strongest plea yet to bring Dunn back in 2011 and beyond.
"We've got to get Adam," Zimmerman said when asked what he'd most like to see the Nationals do this winter. "The presence he has in this lineup, the presence he has in the clubhouse, the consistency you get out of him ... if you take him out of the middle of the lineup, it's going to be hard to replace him. It's going to do a lot to our team."
Though there are a number of established first basemen on the open market -- including Carlos Pena, Paul Konerko and Aubrey Huff -- Zimmerman believes none are as sure of a thing as Dunn.
"You can get a guy who might have a great season, or he might hit 15 home runs and drive in 60," he said. "The thing you know with Adam is, he's going to hit close to 40 home runs, he's going to drive in close to 100 runs. He's been like that the last seven years. The hardest thing to find in baseball is a consistent player. And I think when you have one, and you have one here, it's kind of hard to believe you can't retain him."
Zimmerman said he's talked to Dunn "almost every day" since the end of the season. Though the conversation rarely is about baseball, there's no mystery about Dunn's preferred employer moving forward.
"He wants to be here," Zimmerman said. "He's a little upset that stuff didn't get done. But that was not the team's fault. You know how it is with that stuff. But now it's to the point where he goes to free agency. ... Obviously, it just makes sense for him business-wise and career-wise to at least go out and see what's out there. That's not to say he won't come back here, or he won't be here or he doesn't want to be here. But for him and his family, he's got to go out, entertain other offers and at least see what his real worth is."
Dunn, who has been free to negotiate with other teams since Sunday, is expected to receive interest from several teams, including the Tigers and Cubs.
Mike Rizzo tiptoed around the subject following the fashion show, but the GM suggested he's negotiating with other free agent first basemen while also dealing with Dunn.
"We're certainly talking with multiple options," Rizzo said. "We've got a lot of irons in the fire, and we're working on a lot of things."
As for the primary knock on Dunn -- his defense at first base -- no less an authority than a Gold Glove third baseman insisted it shouldn't be an issue.
"Ryan Howard makes a lot more money than him, and he's not winning Gold Gloves," Zimmerman said. "And I love Ryan. He's a great player. But nobody ever says anything about his defense. First base, there's maybe three or four guys in the big leagues that play good first base. I don't understand why Adam gets crushed on his defense. From the time he started playing defense in spring training until the time he ended the season, I can honestly say he's 10 times better."