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What to expect from Washington Nationals’ outfielder Adam Eaton in 2018?

We only got to see one month of Adam Eaton with the Nationals last season. But it was an impressive month...

Washington Nationals v Colorado Rockies Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

Following last winter’s much-maligned 3-for-1 trade with the White Sox, which sent Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, and Dane Dunning to Chicago in return for outfielder Adam Eaton, Washington Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo explained why he made the deal, telling reporters he thought the speedy 28-year-old was the right fit for the roster.

“Adam fit our club perfectly,” Rizzo said. “Left-handed bat, balanced our line-up, 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, [and] 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 is under contract through 2019 at $14.4M ($6M in 2018 and $8.4M in ‘19) with club options for 2020 (at $9.5) and 2021 (at $10.5M) or $1.5M buyouts in each of the last two seasons.

Eaton tore the ACL and meniscus in his left knee and suffered a high ankle sprain in his left leg lunging toward first base on a ground ball in late April, but before the injury, he was on the way toward making the deal look like a good one for the Nationals, putting up a .297/.393/.462 line, seven doubles, a triple, two home runs, and three stolen bases in 23 games and 107 plate appearances.

Washington Nationals v Colorado Rockies Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

“The game kind of got the best of me there a little bit in the ninth inning,” Eaton told reporters after receiving the diagnosis on the season-ending injury.

“Just trying to make something happen,” he said, “... and kind of got outside my zone there and lunged a little bit at the bag. It’s part of the way I play, it’s unfortunate that I got snakebit a little bit there. Tore my ACL, tore my meniscus. Ankle is in pretty rough shape, but at least we don’t have to do anything to that, it will heal over time.”

Michael A. Taylor (111 games) and Brian Goodwin (34) filled in in center for Eaton after the injury, and at this point it looks like Taylor will stay in center field in 2018 with the Nationals shifting Eaton to left field with Bryce Harper in right.

Rizzo talked, in an interview on the MLB Network on Monday, about getting the soon-to-turn 29-year-old outfielder back at the top of the order next season.

Adam Eaton was a spark plug for us at the beginning of the season,” Rizzo said.

“The first month with him and [Trea] Turner at the top of the lineup was dynamic. He’s a great fundamental defensive player, he can play center field and both corners, he’s a top-of-the-order hitter, on-base percentage guy, he can steal a base, go first-to-third, and he can really, really grind out at bats. He was some energy that we really needed and missed throughout the season if the first month was any indication.”

“We’re looking for special things from him,” Rizzo added.

How will Eaton bounce back from the knee injury? He was running and swinging a bat by last August, but Rizzo ruled out for a potential postseason return after all the time off, even if he had been able to return.

Will he still have the range and speed in the outfield, and speed on the basepaths that made him such an effective player with the White Sox and during his first month with the Nationals? Do you like the mix of Eaton, Taylor, and Harper in the outfield in 2018?