According to a report this afternoon, Adam Eaton has signed on to return to Chicago, inking a 1-year/$7M deal with the White Sox which includes a team option for 2022 at $8.5M.
Eaton, 32, spent three seasons with the Sox (2014-16), before he was traded to Washington in a three-for-one deal that sent pitchers Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, and Dane Dunning (who was traded last night) to the South Side of Chicago.
White Sox’ anchor, reporter and podcaster at NBC Sports Chicago Chuck Garfien was first with the report today (that we saw).
White Sox in agreement with free agent outfielder Adam Eaton, source tells @NBCSChicago. It's a 1-year, $7 million deal with a second year team option for $8.5 million.— Chuck Garfien (@ChuckGarfien) December 8, 2020
In four seasons with the Nationals, during which he dealt with a variety of injuries, Eaton put up a combined .279/.365/.419 line with 61 doubles, 10 triples, and 26 home runs in a total of 301 games and 1,309 plate appearances, over which he was worth 4.2 fWAR.
Coming off a World Series win in 2019, Eaton struggled in the 60-game 2020 campaign. He finished the year with a .226/.285/.384 line in a -0.5 fWAR season, and the Nats declined the $10.5M club option included in his contract, opting for a $1.5M buyout that made him a free agent.
It was a frustrating year for Eaton, who told reporters he never quite felt comfortable, but he said at the end of the season that he felt like he could still contribute at the big league level.
“I think I have plenty of drive left, I think that I have plenty of will to win and play to win,” he said. “I think this offseason will be getting healthy again, to completely get healthy again.”
“Coming into even the camp here I’ve had some issues and things that can be cleaned up pretty well with a couple months off,” Eaton continued.
“I want to play for as long as they’ll let me play ... I still have a lot of fire left in me. Still have the willingness to win.”
Eaton’s 2020 season ended when a broken finger forced him to shut things down in mid-September, which he said was a fitting end to a frustrating year.
“It’s fitting for how my year has went to end on that note,” Eaton said.
“On a personal level, with the contract next year, like I said, to do what I did this year and then to end up on the IL at the end the year is just as fitting as it could be.”
He said at the time that he hoped evaluators would take all the circumstances into account when they looked at his production in 2020.
“My god, I hope so,” Eaton laughed. “I hope so. I think when I’m on the field I feel like I’m pretty consistent as a player.
“Not nearly as young and as fiery as I was maybe five years ago, but I think when you put 150-plus games in front of me, and the player that I can be — I’m such a slow starter I think as well, if you look at my history — I think in the first 40 games I usually hit like .230 and then I kind just take off and grind back.
“Once the pitchers get a little tired I get better for some reason. But like I said, I hope they do. I think there’s a lot of moving parts with that other than just 60 games and playing underneath some crazy circumstances. We missed out on a lot of time, a lot of games, and I think organizations are going to have — it’s going to be a different offseason. I’ll just put it that way, just as simple as I can put it.”
Apparently the White Sox believe Eaton still has something to offer, and he’s returning to an organization that knows him well.
Meanwhile, the Nationals, who moved Juan Soto over to right field (where Eaton had played the majority of time in 2018-20), late last season to see how he’d handle it, are in the market for a corner outfielder to replace Eaton. No word yet (though there are rumors) about where they’ll find a new outfielder to join Soto and Victor Robles in the everyday mix.