NATIONAL HARBOR, MD. - Moments before reports of the Washington Nationals’ trade with the Chicago White Sox that sent top prospects Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez and 2016 1st Round pick Dane Dunning to the White Sox for 28-year-old outfielder Adam Eaton, Nats’ GM Mike Rizzo was asked if he was confident, in spite of a few high-profile swings and misses at the Winter Meetings, that he would be able to add to the roster this winter.
“There’s always a chance,” Rizzo said. “If you can’t make the right deal. It has to work for you, it has to fit for you, but we’re confident that we’re working hard, that we’re trying to improve the club and if we find a way to improve the club we’re going to be aggressive and take it. But it has to be the right fit, the right type of player and not only today, but for the future.”
In a post-trade press conference at the Gaylord Resort and Convention Center tonight, Rizzo told reporters why he thought Eaton was the right fit for the Nationals.
“Adam fills a lot of things we were looking for in the player that we wanted to acquire,” Rizzo explained.
“It's never easy to let go of your prospects. You know, you feel like a proud daddy when they get to the big leagues and it's difficult to let them go. All three of those guys are high-ceiling guys that have a bright future.
“Adam fit our club perfectly, left-handed bat, balanced our lineup, high energy guy, edge to him, plays the game the right way, good hitter, good defensive player both in center field and outstanding in the corner, a productive player throughout his career.
“We see the arrow still going up with him and he's a guy that will have years of control and cost certainty and it allows us the flexibility to do many more things.”
Eaton, who turned 28 this week, put up a .284/.362/.428 line, with 29 doubles, nine triples and 14 home runs in a 6.0 fWAR campaign in his third season in Chicago in 2016.
The veteran outfielder is under contract through 2019 at $4M this season, $6M in 2018 and $8.4M in 2019 with a club option for $9.5M in 2020 and another at $10.5M in 2021 or a $1.5M buyout in each of the last two years.
The salary and years of control, Rizzo said, were an important factor that made Eaton an appealing target.
“The term and the price tag had importance to us,” he said. “But we really liked the skill of the player. He's a type of player that we've been looking for here. We see him playing center field at least in the short-term. He's got a five years of control with us.
“In the short-term, he certainly is capable of playing center field very well. He's an outstanding corner outfielder. It gives us, again, the flexibility to do different things.
“He can play multiple positions, which several of our players can and he's performed admirably throughout his entire career.”
While the Nationals missed out on Mark Melancon, who signed with the San Francisco Giants (4-years/$62M), Chris Sale, who was traded from the White Sox to the Boston Red Sox and closer Wade Davis, who was traded from the Kansas City Royals to the Chicago Cubs, Rizzo said the acquisition of Eaton and last Friday’s deal for Derek Norris, set the Nationals up nicely for future moves.
“The decisions aren't made in a vacuum,” he said. “We certainly have our plans for 2017 and beyond. Again, it gives us flexibility both positionally -- flexibility payroll-wise and it allows us to do -- puts us in a position to do a lot of things.”
In giving up Giolito, a former first-round pick (2012) who was the top-ranked prospect in the organization and the highest-ranked pitching prospect in baseball on most lists before a somewhat disappointing debut this summer, Reynaldo Lopez, ranked 2nd in the system before the trade, and Dane Dunning, a 2016 1st Round pick, the perception, a reporter noted, is that the Nationals gave up a lot for a player who isn’t exactly well-known, making it seem lopsided in the Sox favor, but Rizzo said he was confident that both sides got a good deal.
“We feel comfortable with the deal,” he said. “We've done a lot of deals. I like win/win deals. I think the White Sox did a great job of acquiring good, potential upside players.
“We got ourselves a good, young skillful player that we can control at below market values for five seasons and, again, you’ve got to give to get.
“We certainly got what we wanted in Adam Eaton. The White Sox should and do feel good about what they acquired in this. The good thing is we have depth behind them in the prospect ranks. We have five quality starters that are already in the major leagues and signed long-term. We feel good about where we're at as an organization and as a franchise.”