Nationals obtain Eaton from White Sox to play CF
The Washington Nationals have may found their new center fielder.
The Nationals acquired veteran outfielder Adam Eaton from the Chicago White Sox on Wednesday for three young pitchers — right-hander Lucas Giolito, right-hander Reynaldo Lopez and 2016 first-round pick right-hander Dane Dunning.
Eaton batted .284 with 14 home runs, 59 RBI and 14 stolen bases last season with the White Sox. After moving over from center, Eaton spent last season in right field and was a finalist for an American League Gold Glove Award. He led the majors with 18 outfield assists.
“Adam fit our club perfectly, left-handed bat, balanced our lineup, 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,” Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo said. “We see the arrow still going up with him and he’s a guy that will have years of control and cost certaintly, and it allows us the flexibility to do many more things.”
Eaton has three seasons left on his $23.5 million, fiveyear contract. He’s due to make $4 million next season, $6 million in 2018 and $8.4 million in 2019.
With the acquisition of Eaton, the Nationals can move National League Rookie of the Year runner-up Trea Turner from center field to his natural shortstop position. However, Rizzo wasn’t about to commit to such a move.
“Positional flexibility is a good thing to have, we have it,” Rizzo said. “We have several players that can play different positions successfully. Trea has proven he can play shortstop, center field, second base effectively. Bryce has proved he can play center field, left and right, same thing with Adam Eaton. So we have a lot of flexibility and it allows us a lot of ways to put a lineup on the field.”
The White Sox have become familiar with the Nationals’ prospects as the trio being sent to Chicago were reportedly discussed as part of trade offers for lefty Chris Sale before he was shipped to Boston on Tuesday.
“We’ve discussed this player and several other players with the White Sox for quite a while now,” Rizzo said. “It did gain momentum after the Sale deal was done and it actually came together fairly quickly over the last couple of days.”
Giolito, 22, was the Nationals’ first-round pick in 2012. He made his major-league debut in June and was 0-1 in six starts with a 6.75 ERA.
“Today is both an exciting an a humbling time after being traded from the Nationals to the White Sox,” Giolito said in a statement on his Twitter account. “I am grateful to the Washington Nationals organization for giving me the opportunity to pursue my dream of playing in the MLB. I will miss the wonderful people I met along the way. I am absolutely thrilled to be joining the Chicago White Sox. I can’t wait to play in the great city of Chicago for such a storied franchise. Look forward to meeting my new teammates, the coaches and staff!”
Lopez was 5-3 with a 4.91 ERA in 11 games for the Nationals last season.
“It’s never easy to let go of your prospects,” Rizzo said. “All three of those guys are high serving guys that have a bright future.”
Nationals lose out on closer candidate
Cross off another possible closer from the Nationals’ shopping list.
The World Champion Chicago Cubs acquired All-Star reliever Wade Davis from the Kansas City Royals on Wednesday for outfielder Jorge Soler. Davis takes over the closer role for the Cubs from free agent Aroldis Chapman.
“Wade is going to pitch the ninth inning,” Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer said.
Davis helped the Royals win the 2015 World Series. In 271⁄3 career postseason innings as a reliever, he has a 0.33 ERA with 39 strikeouts. Davis went 2-1 with 27 saves in 30 opportunities and a 1.87 ERA last season.
The Davis trade to the Cubs signaled the second time this week the Nationals missed out on acquiring a closer.
Incumbent Nationals closer Mark Melancon signed on Monday with the San Francisco Giants to a fouryear, $62 million contract, so far the richest contract for a closer.
Nationals manager Dusty Baker made it known on Wednesday that he wanted Melancon back, but money was a factor.
“We all wanted Melancon, you know, but we don’t have the budget or the packed stadium for 800 games in a row like the Giants do,” Baker said. “They have more resources than we do. We got a lower budget and everybody has a budget. If we would have spent that on Melancon, we wouldn’t have been able to spend anything on anybody else.”
Baker acknowledged the possibility of still obtaining a player to fill the role.
“Well, the winter is not over yet, so you can’t be fearful of something that still has a chance to fill that position,” Baker said. “So, it would be different if we were in, you know late February, you know late January, early February.
Besides Melancon and the since-departed Jonathan Papelbon, four other Nationals pitchers had at least one save last season. Righty Shawn Kelley had seven saves. Baker didn’t rule out an internal candidate in the role.
“Somebody always emerges,” Baker said. “I believe that, that somebody will come forward. They will separate themselves from the pack. But in the meantime, we’re still looking to fill that void.”