Washington Nationals Overpaying For Adam Eaton Was A Mistake
By Ricky Keeler
The Washington Nationals paid a hefty prospect price to acquire White Sox center fielder Adam Eaton, but was it a big overpay?
The blockbuster deal that surprised the entire baseball industry late Wednesday afternoon was the Washington Nationals trading away their top three pitching prospects in Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, and Dane Dunning for center fielder Adam Eaton. Eaton is a good player, but this was a major overpay by Mike Rizzo and the front office.
Now, the Nats had to give up something to get a player with five years of control, if you include Eaton’s team options for 2020 and 2021. Plus, with the way the Nats like to steal bases, I would expect Eaton to have a career-high in stolen bases and surpass the 18 he had in 2015.
Eaton’s a good player, but is he a great player? The key will be whether or not Eaton is used more in right field than center field. When he’s in right, he’s one of the best defensive players in the game at that position.
This package of prospects was a big haul for Rick Hahn and the White Sox. Giolito did not have the success that everyone was hoping for in 2016. But, at the same time, prospects tend to develop at different stages. If the White Sox can figure out how to fix Giolito’s mechanics and get his fastball velocity back up, he has a chance to live up to the hype.
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From this entire process, you got the sense that Giolito’s value had gone down across the industry. If you look at the proposed offer for Chris Sale that Jorge Castillo of the Washington Post tweeted yesterday, the only difference was Victor Robles. If Giolito’s value was a little higher than Yoan Moncada, maybe they get the Sale deal done:
To me, the tough part of this deal was losing both Giolito and Lopez. While Lopez had his growing pains as a starter, he did a good job as the long man down the stretch last season. Out of these two pitchers, Lopez had the best chance to help the 2017 Washington Nationals as either a starter or as a reliever in the late innings with the fastball that he has.
As for Dunning, he didn’t make it past short-season single-A last season. However, he had 29 strikeouts to seven walks in his seven starts with the Auburn Doubledays. While he wasn’t ranked as high as Giolito or Lopez in most prospect rankings, he is a player who had experience as a starter and reliever when he was at Florida.
One question I had about this deal was whether or not the Nats asked for David Robertson during this discussion. If the organization had gotten both the center fielder and the closer in the deal, then it wouldn’t have been as much of an overpay for Eaton because the Nats would’ve filled both of those needs.
It will be interesting to see what the Washington Nationals do going forward after saving some money in this Eaton deal. Since they are going to all-in to try to capitalize on their window, they should be trying to get an elite closer. However, late last night, Aroldis Chapman signed with the Yankees (according to Ken Rosenthal) and the only top closer left is Kenley Jansen (would cost a first round pick)
Once this deal was announced, you had the sense that Rizzo was trying to get something done while the Washington Nationals were technically the host of the Winter Meetings. Eaton should provide contributions to the Washington Nationals going forward. But, time will tell if the White Sox end up getting the much better end of the deal.
Next: Nats Acquire Eaton From White Sox
For now, this looks like a major overpay, but time will tell. Rizzo is usually the one who gets other teams to overpay. This time, it’s the other way around. But, if Eaton can live up to his 6.2 WAR that he had in 2016 and help the Nats achieve their World Series goal, then it’s all worth it.