One thing a manager wants more than anything is consistency with his players so that he knows what kind of player he's throwing into the mix and Dunn exemplifies consistency both in production and the ability to stay on the field.
Unlike Carlos Quentin, who always has potential but often has injuries sidelining him, Dunn has fulfilled his potential and he is nothing like a box of chocolates. In Dunn, the White Sox know exactly what they're going to get.
In the last 7 seasons, Adam Dunn has played in at least 152 games each year and made no fewer than 632 plate appearances in any of the past 7 seasons. Still just 31 years old, there's no reason to suspect that Dunn's health will decline, especially if he is used primarily as the DH. Since 2004, Dunn has stepped to the plate 4,634 times, giving his manager an average of over 4 appearances for EVERY game for 7 years! That kind of playing consistency is nice for an average player, but when it's a player you can pencil in for 40 home runs every year, it makes it that much easier to fill out a lineup card. Speaking of consistent power:
Dunn has averaged 40 home runs per year over the same above timeframe. That's fine, but if it's 70 one year and 10 the next, he's only helping the team in one of the two seasons. With Dunn, however, that's not the case. Here are his seasonal HR totals beginning with 2004: 46-40-40-40-40-40-38-38. His RBI totals? 102-101-92-106-100-105-103. OBP? .388-.387-.365-.386-.386-.398-.356. Unbelievably consistent. Besides consistency, the White Sox are also getting talent: since 2004, only Albert Pujols has hit more home runs, and I don't think you're going to see Big Al signing a deal at $14 million per season anytime soon unless it's for 15 years.
Are there any downsides? Sure. Dunn strikes out. A lot. I mean, A LOT. Threatening to surpass the magic number of 200 in a season someday, Dunn is at 28th on the career strikeout list and climbing. That scares some traditionalists, but the fact remains that despite the heavy strikeout totals, Dunn still gets on base more often than most (23rd among active players in OBP) thanks to a high total of bases on balls. Adam Dunn is the rare player who walks AND strikes out a lot, which simply means he takes a lot of pitches in every at bat - yet another thing that helps a team win ballgames.
Fielding is another deficiency of Dunn, but while he isn't exactly Willie Mays in the outfield, he has been good enough to continue playing in the National League for 10 seasons, both at first base and in the outfield. The White Sox will eliminate much of this deficiency by using Dunn in the DH role, but unlike aging DHs like Thome, Dunn will still be serviceable enough to use in the field to spell Konerko (or whomever Chicago signs) for a game or two as needed. His ability to field also enables him to play full time when interleague rolls around, instantly making him more effective than the DHs who get relegated to a pinch-hitting role for several weeks of the season.
Does this mean the White Sox are guaranteed to be playing baseball in late October? Of course not. What it means is that in today's baseball world, there may not be a better way to spend $56 million than to give it to Adam Dunn for 4 years because you know exactly what you're buying and at that price, it's more than worth it. 40 HRs, 103 RBIs, and an OBP of .384? Throw away the pencil, because you can put those numbers in ink for 2011.