Chicago White Sox’ GM Rick Hahn made two tough calls this week, to let Chris Sale and Adam Eaton know that they had been traded, in separate deals, to the Boston Red Sox and Washington Nationals, respectively. Sale was dealt from the White to the Red Sox in return for a package of four prospects headlined by Yoan Moncada and Michael Kopech. Eaton brought back Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez and Dane Dunning from the Nationals.
“I did not enjoy my phone call with Adam any more than I enjoyed my phone call with Chris yesterday,” Hahn told reporters Wednesday night on the third day of the 2016 MLB Winter Meetings at the Gaylord Resort & Convention Center.
While the baseball world seemed to agree that the deal was lopsided in the White Sox’ favor, Hahn rationally explained why he thought Eaton was as valuable as he was.
“I do think he had perhaps a little more appeal than maybe some free agents options given their price points or some other players on the market because of their length of control relative to Adam,” Hahn said.
“But that also means he came with a higher asking price than perhaps some other targets from clubs.”
Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo was comfortable with the package he sent to the Sox, and asked what he liked about Eaton, he launched into an extended explanation of what the 28-year-old outfielder will bring to Washington.
“Adam fit our club perfectly,” Rizzo said.
“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.”
Rizzo was asked to explain specifically what he liked about Eaton’s make-up and what he meant when said he liked the outfielder’s “edge”?
“Just the way he plays as we played against him over the years,” Rizzo said. “Of course we do our due diligence on every player. We liked what we heard from different aspects of people we checked on. He plays with an edge. He's playing 100 miles an hour with his hair on fire. He hustles. He will dive for balls. He will steal a base. He goes into second base hard.
“In the batter's box, his hitting approach is he never gives in. He's a balanced hitter split-wise, he hits lefties as well as righties.
“So, it brings a good skill set to our ballclub. He's more contact oriented and hits in situations and can do a lot of things. He bunts the ball, hits the ball the other way.
“You can hit and run with him, he's got some sneaky pop and skill on the base. I think the arrow offensively is going up and a guy that has defensive flexibility for us.”
“The only negative I've heard is you have to calm him down a little bit,” manager Dusty Baker added when asked about his new outfielder, “because he goes 100% all the time, which is not a bad way to play this game.”
But what do the Nationals see in Eaton that convinced them he was worth the package they sent to the White Sox? The rest of the baseball world isn’t so sure about the cost Rizzo paid for the outfielder, or the fact that the Nats plan on putting him in center after he shifted to right and excelled out there in 2016.
“He hits for average,” Rizzo said. “He's a contact guy. He gets on base. He's got some power. He plays great defense. He throws outstanding. He's got a great arm that's accurate, he throws runners out.
“As far as the analytics, he comes from a high WAR as a corner outfielder. We feel he is going to be a solid performer in center field. And he's a tough out, he grinds out at-bats, he rarely swings and misses. He puts up a good at-bat when needed. And we feel that, his make-up, attitude, position and flexibility was something that was important to us.”
Are the edge, and hair-on-fire/100%-all-the-time approach something that was missing from the Nationals’ lineup?
“I think we've got a lot of quiet leaders on this team,” Rizzo told reporters.
“We've got guys who really, really care. I think that it's always good to have a mixture of all those type of personalities. You've got the stoic, quiet leader, lead by example guy like [Ryan Zimmerman] and then you've got the louder, more flamboyant leader like [Bryce Harper]. So I think Adam is going to fit in perfectly there. He and [Daniel Murphy] seem to be extremely locked-in type of players who focus, have extreme focus.
“I think it's a good mix. I like guys who get after it, play with their hair on fire a little bit and bring some energy to the ballpark.”
“I would like to add to that, that I don't think it's anything that we have been lacking, we just got some more,” Baker said.
“There is no harm in having more of whatever you have now.”