With his team down six runs to the Pirates, Reds manager Dusty Baker abruptly pulled right fielder Adam Dunn from the game in fifth inning Thursday, reviving MLB rumors that the front office may have reached a tentative accord with an unnamed team to trade the 6-foot-6, 275-pound slugger.
With no information immediately forthcoming, it could not be ruled out that Dunn had been injured, but he appeared to be perfectly healthy when Baker lifted him in a double switch. One thing for certain, with a six-run deficit, Baker could hardly be taking him out for a defensive replacement as Dunn is commonly thought to be a liability in the outfield.
Though Dunn has never been recognized for his glove, he has recently heated up at the plate, approaching a .260 batting average with 14 homers on the year, 10 in May alone.
Dunn, 28 -- whose two-year $36 million contract expires at the end of this season -- has been widely thought to have been on the trading block for well over a year. Yet it appears there have been no takers, perhaps until now.
If the Reds were negotiating a deal, Baker likely would have been instructed to take Dunn out of the game for fear that an injury would derail the talks. Official word was being awaited, but even if Baker explained his odd move as being merely utilitarian in nature, it would not be entirely discountable that something more complicated may be occurring behind the scenes, consumation or no consumation.
Now with the Reds playoffs hopes in shambles, Dunn, future Hall-of-Famer Ken Griffey Jr. and other players more than ever are regarded as potential bargaining chips for a posssible rebuilding effort.
Dunn -- who generally has been counted on to belt 40 homers a year while scoring 100 runs -- just came off a 14-game hitting streak in which he hit more than .400 with six homers. Dunn's .395 on-base percentage leads the team, but Baker is on the record as saying he prefers batters not take walks as they will "clog up the basepaths."