Under general manager Rick Hahn, the Chicago White Sox have been the team of the offseason. This title was solidified when they traded star outfielder Adam Eaton to the Washington Nationals for prospects Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, and Dane Dunning.
Eaton, who mostly played right and center field for the White Sox in 2016, was a great defender and also solid with the bat. In 1,362 innings in right field for Chicago last season, Eaton picked up 20 defensive runs saved (per Fangraphs). However, something that may be of concern for Washington was his below average play in center field, with -2 DRS in 373.2 innings.
In addition to his solid glove, Eaton was a large part of the Sox offense. He slashed .284/.362/.428 (115 wRC+) in 706 plate appearances, while hitting 29 doubles, 9 triples, and 14 home runs. The 27-year-old accumulated 6.0 fWAR, due to his strong offensive and defensive commitments to the Sox in 2016.
Eaton is under club control for five more seasons, through 2021, making him more of a long term acquisition rather than a one-season pickup for the Nationals.
As you’d expect, Eaton didn’t go for a cheap price. The Nationals will send prospects Giolito, Lopez, and Dunning to the White Sox in return for their star outfielder. Per mlb.com, Giolito was the Nationals’ top prospect, Lopez their third, and Dunning their sixth.
Giolito, a 22-year-old right-handed starting pitcher, was the Nationals’ first-round pick in 2012, drafted 16th overall out of Harvard-Westlake High School in Los Angeles. He was the third-best prospect in all of baseball, per mlb.com, and rightfully so. In five seasons in the minor leagues, Giolito had a 2.73 ERA, striking out 9.7 per nine innings pitched while only walking 3.0 per nine in 369 total innings pitched. In 2016, the top prospect pitched in each level from Single-A to MLB, spending most of his time in Double-A, where he posted a 3.17 ERA. He was called up to the majors on a few different occasions, where he posted a 6.75 ERA in 21.1 innings pitched. He allowed seven home runs in his six appearances (four starts), which could be to due a small sample size and his inexperience in the big leagues. Expect Giolito to start the 2017 season in the high minors, while he could be used in the rotation later in the season for the MLB squad.
Along with Giolito, the Nationals sent another great prospect, right-handed starter Lopez, to Chicago. Signed as an amateur free agent in 2012 out of the Dominican Republic, Lopez had worked his way up through the system in his five years with the Nationals. Through his age-22 season, Lopez had pitched just over 300 innings in the Nationals’ minor leagues, posting a 3.16 ERA, while striking out 8.9 per nine innings and walking 2.8 per nine. Lopez, like Giolito, pitched for the Nationals on occasion during 2016. In 44 innings (11 games/6 starts), Lopez allowed 24 earned runs, good for a 4.91 ERA. Lopez was rated the 75th best prospect in baseball prior to the 2016 season by BaseballProspectus.com. Like Giolito, expect Lopez to pitch in the minors as well as for the MLB team in 2017.
But wait, there’s more! The Nationals also sent their 2016 first-round pick, right-handed starter Dunning, to the White Sox. Dunning, 21, posted a 2.02 ERA in 35.2 IP in the low minor leagues last season. As mentioned earlier, Dunning was the sixth-best prospect in the Nationals’ system, but likely won’t play in the majors until he gets a lot more playing time in the minors.
Overall, this deal looks great for the White Sox. All three look to be future starters of the major-league rotation, and given the state of their rebuild, giving up Eaton was probably in their best interests.
It is likely that, despite being very good in right, Eaton will man center field for the Nationals in the upcoming seasons. With left fielder Jayson Werth and right fielder Bryce Harper, there really isn’t anywhere else for Eaton to play. This means young superstar Trea Turner will play shortstop, moving Danny Espinosa to the bench. The first four hitters in the Nationals’ orders could be Turner, Eaton, Daniel Murphy, and Harper, which is very scary if you’re an opposing pitcher.
This huge move was the second one of the Winter Meetings for the White Sox, following the trade that sent ace Chris Sale to the Boston Red Sox for Yoan Moncada and other highly praised prospects. At this point, don’t expect them to stop soon, as Jose Quintana, David Robertson, Todd Frazier, Jose Abreu, and Melky Cabrera are all pieces that could be traded in order to stockpile even more top prospects.