Washington Nationals: Adam Eaton a welcome gift

DENVER, CO - APRIL 24: Adam Eaton
DENVER, CO - APRIL 24: Adam Eaton /

A new era dawns for the Washington Nationals as Adam Eaton becomes their new left fielder. A reminder of his immense talent.

The Washington Nationals are excited about the return of Adam Eaton.

In this off-season of molasses, people forget the Nats have a new healthy left fielder ready to contribute. “Sparky” might be the missing championship piece the rest of us waited for.

Eaton’s opening month in Washington last April gave a glimpse of what is possible. A slash line of .297/.393/.462 gave the Nats a taste of what he can do at the plate. With Jayson Werth’s ability to grind long counts at the plate probably gone, they need Eaton to drive pitchers batty.

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His 14 walks over 23 games is a good start.

Although Eaton does not own blazing base-stealing speed, his intelligent running between the bases is a welcome return. A reminder with the Chicago White Sox he led the American League twice in triples. In three full seasons on the south side, he hit 28.

With the cavernous ballparks of the National League, particularly in the west, Eaton will give pitchers and outfielders nightmares. With as powerful an offense as Washington has, he should score over 100 runs for the first time in his career.

If there is one thing the Nats can learn from last October, it is they need a strong performance from the top of their lineup. Trea Turner will improve with maturity and experience, but he must have support.

Yes, Eaton has no postseason baseball on his resume. But, he enters 2018 with a massive chip on his shoulder. If, as we expect, the Nats win the NL East again, the moment will give him something to feed off and not to overwhelm.

The emergence of Michael Taylor in center gives Eaton the chance to play as a corner outfielder where his defensive strengths lie. Although Bryce Harper sits in right, Eaton played in left as he developed with the Arizona Diamondbacks. Last year, he started two games in left while patrolling it five.

Defensive statistics are tricky, and Eaton’s time in left is too short to draw anything on, but him moving out of centerfield is a bonus. When you add Taylor’s range, it is a win-win.

Lost between the injury and trade is Eaton is under team control for four more years. He carries team options for 2020 and 2021. Mike Rizzo made this move with an eye on the future.

Next: Nats carry an Altoids bullpen

A future hoped to spark a championship run or two.