Adam Eaton reached base in three of his four plate appearances in his regular season debut for the Washington Nationals in the season opener on Monday in the nation’s capital.
Eaton walked in the bottom of the first inning, doubled to right field in the third, and walked again in the eighth before scoring the Nats’ fourth run of the game on Daniel Murphy’s RBI single in what ended up a 4-2 win over Miami.
While pundits seemed to think the Nationals overpaid for Eaton this winter when they sent three top prospects (Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez and Dane Dunning) to the Chicago White Sox in return for five years of control of the 28-year-old outfielder, who finished the 2016 campaign with a .284/.362/.428 line, 29 doubles, nine triples, 14 HRs and 115 wRC+ in a 6.0 fWAR season, Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo was clear from the start that he was comfortable with the cost.
“Adam fit our club perfectly,” Rizzo told reporters this winter.
“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, 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.”
Rizzo reiterated his stance in an MLB Network Radio interview from Spring Training, telling hosts Jim Duquette and Jim Bowden that Eaton brought a good deal to the lineup.
“Eaton was a guy that filled a lot of voids for us,” Rizzo said. “We were kind of team that needed to produce more runs, be more offensively efficient, strike out less, prepare to get runners in scoring position and score them more often.
“I think Adam gives us another left-handed bat which balances our lineup, that really grinds out at bats. He’s a good on-base guy, he’s got sneaky pop.”
Baker talked before Opening Day about getting to know the Nats’ new outfielder.
“He likes to play,” Baker said. “He really likes to play. That’s where it starts. Sometimes he can be a little red ass, which is good — excuse my English — which is necessary sometimes.”
Eaton went 13 for 60 (.217/.222/.317) with a double, triple and home run in 24 games in Grapefruit League action, striking out just five times, but he didn’t draw a single walk on the Spring, which was a cause for some concern for Baker.
Asked after Eaton walked twice in the season opener if those concerns were alleviated somewhat, Baker said he was happy with what he saw.
“That’s fine with me. I remember one time Lou Piniella asked me when they first got Ichiro and he asked me, ‘Can this guy hit?’ And he said, ‘Dusty, all I’ve seen him do is get jammed on the inside with balls on the inside,’ and you don’t exactly what a guy might be working on in that situation and Ichiro ended up, now he has 3,000 hits, and that just shows that veteran guys are working on certain things.”
Before the second game of three with the Marlins, Rizzo talked to 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s The Sports Junkies about the Nationals’ new center fielder, and the deal that brought Eaton to Washington.
“We love the trade,” Rizzo said. “We feel good about. We always have. He’s the type of player that we needed and we were looking for, so it fit for us. If it fits for the White Sox, that’s great.
“We know our players and we know who we’re giving up and who we’re getting back and I think that’s going to be — 1 for 1 with two walks may not be a typical day, but it’s a typical at bat for that kid. He’s a real grinder, he’s a rat at the plate. He’s a tough out. He’ll see some pitches, he’ll grind them out. He’s going to lay down bunts when you don’t expect it. He’s going to sacrifice his average for the team’s goals.
“He’s just a consummate professional hitter and a great teammate and he’s here for one reason. He wants to win. His talent is underrated and underestimated and he’s a guy who, I’m looking forward to seeing him run run around the field. I know he’s going to be a fan favorite, just cause everyone can relate to the size and the body-type and that type of thing.
“He’s a ball of fire and he’s an energy bunny and he’s a guy that really gets after it.”
Eaton went 1 for 3 with a walk and two runs scored in the Nationals’ 6-4 win in the second game of three with the Marlins on Wednesday night.