White Sox couldn’t wait to sign, DFA Adam Eaton

Apr 24, 2021; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Chicago White Sox right fielder Adam Eaton (12) is nearly hit by a pitch thrown by Texas Rangers starting pitcher Kyle Gibson (44) in thethird t inning at Guaranteed Rate Field. Mandatory Credit: Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports

The only thing truly ridiculous about the Adam Eaton signing was the timing. The rest of the elements were all defensible.

Entering the winter, the White Sox really could have used a left-handed hitter with an above-average OBP and the ability to cover right field, and even if you didn’t count on Eaton resuming the form he showed with the White Sox, he’d met that description as recently as 2019 with the Nationals. Sure, his conduct during L’Affaire LaRoche and the rest of the disastrous 2016 season showed what Chicago sports talk radio had always whispered about, but his contributions to a World Series champion three years later indicated maturation of some sort. Health was the biggest sticking point. Three of his four seasons in Washington were limited by injuries, and that’s the reason why he only required a one-year deal with a team option for his services.

Had the White Sox signed Eaton to that $8 million deal in January, it wouldn’t have been as big an issue. That’s usually the time of the winter for Guys Who Might Have Something Left — see Carlos Rodón signing on Jan. 30 — and there was enough reason to believe Eaton wasn’t toast.

Instead, the White Sox signed Eaton on Dec. 8 as the first major outfielder transaction of the winter, and just one day after the trade for Lance Lynn suggested something more sweeping. When a team acts with that kind of urgency, it alters the primary question asked by those on the outside.

  • Signing Eaton in late January: Why not?
  • Signing Eaton in early December: Why?

Eaton had enough things working against him that all one needed to predict the future was a very basic distrust of Rick Hahn’s attempts to solve right field on the cheap, which exacerbated the general sense of fools rushing in where angels fear to tread.

When Hahn has bought low, he’s received lower, so when Hahn acquires a player like Eaton, you first have to process the move for how it’s going to fail. Here, it’s easy: Eaton just turned 32, he’s coming off a .226/.285/.384 line, he dealt with a season-shortening injury for the third time in four years, which foreshadows doom for a BABIP-reliant player.

There are ways to defend the signing. Eaton is a slow starter, and the start was all the 2020 schedule afforded. His BABIP probably wouldn’t have spent an entire season around .260. His overall production was killed by going 4-for-39 against lefties, and facing lefties will be Adam Engel’s job.

Except … you could talk yourself into [Nomar] Mazara and [Jon] Jay and [Edwin] Encarnación and [Yonder] Alonso just the same. Reflexive pessimism won the day each and every time. Here, reflexive pessimism says Eaton is either going to be unavailable, or he’s going to struggle into the summer, but Hahn will have to consider replacements well ahead of the trade deadline either way. I don’t want to make my analysis so reductive, but it gets old mining for upside, only to have the shaft collapse.

The only way to defend the signing now is by noting the 2021 performances of free agents who could be expected to man right field with any sort of adequacy:

  • Adam Eaton: .201/.298/.344
  • Joc Pederson: .230/.299/.415
  • George Springer: .213/.333/.475 (over 17 games)
  • Eddie Rosario: .254/.296/.389
  • Jackie Bradley Jr.: .169/.248/.286
  • David Dahl: .215/.244/.344

Prioritizing right field play leaves out Kyle Schwarber and Michael Brantley, who are as strong as ever. Fretting over their inexperience/inability in a specific corner looks silly in a world where Jake Lamb and Gavin Sheets are making it up out there as they go along, but the body count is far above what anybody envisioned when putting together the roster over the winter.

(The argument for Schwarber or Brantley was as the primary DH with some outfield flexibility under the premise of “more bats than spots.” Eaton is not mutually exclusive with that approach.)

This context makes Eaton’s failure less acute at the moment, and perhaps everybody comes away unhappy from the marketplace when I review this pool of players after the season. It just doesn’t make the signing any less of a flop. The problem with racing for Eaton is that the White Sox rushed to sign the guy whose shortcomings were most likely to render him unrosterable halfway through the schedule. He had already provided a preview of what happens when leg injuries chip away at the potency of a guy who needs all of his wheels to be special in 2020. He left little to the imagination.

Sure enough, Eaton suffered three flat tires in a game against Detroit on April 27, and that’s when the wheels came off.

  • First 20 games: .253/.337/.443 over 90 PA
  • Afterward: .164/.270/.273 over 129 PA

Pederson has run more cold than hot this year, and maybe Rosario is a mere product of the balmy climes of Minneapolis, but they still offer enough to make them worth playing for the foreseeable future. If three months of scuffling turns into six, then this exercise may be attempting to distinguish players without a difference. But since they’re all still playing for their original teams, they could very possibly level up over the remaining months to make this comparison obsolete.

Meanwhile, the White Sox’s Dec. 8 signing of Eaton turned into the White Sox designating Eaton for assignment on July 7, and the only true surprise is that minor-league signings and prospect auditions spelled his doom. I didn’t think he’d last the month, but I would’ve wagered a small amount on a deadline deal forcing Eaton off the roster. Instead, the Sox merely decided that previously unremarkable internal candidates like Sheets and Jake Lamburger were worth prioritizing in the interim, and that’s fine, too. If the Sox were too eager to sign Eaton to begin with, at least they used a similar amount of urgency in looking beyond him.

(Photo by Matt Marton/USA TODAY Sports)

Take a second to support Sox Machine on Patreon
Become a patron at Patreon!
74 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
roke1960

So now that the Sox have failed (again) to solve their right field problem, what will they do this offseason? Their are several ways they can go:

  1. Continue their same old ways and sign someone like Kole Calhoun to a cheap deal.
  2. Stick with in-house candidates like Engel, Goodwin or Sheets, or even Yoelqui Cespedes.
  3. Actually try to sign someone of high quality. It looks like 3 players would fit here- Starling Marte, Nick Castellanos or Michael Conforto.
  4. Trade for a player in the last year of his deal, like Joey Gallo.

I would take any on of those 3 guys who are free agents. All could be a fairly long term solution. But again, will Jerry pony up? I would expect a fairly nice bump in payroll next year, now that they are generating plenty of revenue and will be almost certainly coming off another playoff season. Remember in the past Jerry would have a top 10 payroll when the team was very good, or at least expected to be. So what will they do?

As Cirensica

I believe Hahn is gonna try to acquire a high leverage reliever during the deadline. Maybe Escobar if the Diamondbacks lower the price. I am not expecting Hahn to go out there and get an outfielder with a crowd (Garcia, Vaughn, Sheets, Goodwin, Engel, Hamilton) that couldn’t find a spot for Eaton.

joewho112

The current RF’s shouldn’t prevent another move. Vaughn and Sheets have options (I assume Goodwin does too but shrug emoji) and a good chance at least one will struggle enough to earn a demotion.

As Cirensica

I just think the priorities should be: 1) A reliever, 2) An infielder (freeing Leury to outfield duties only), 3) An outfielder

But I guess adding a proven outfielder would be a good if the prce and the outfielder are right.

jhomeslice

I agree their bullpen is their biggest weakness. If they don’t address that, it might not matter what else they do.

phillyd

Funny how we thought the bullpen was a strength before the season.

joewho112

I think fixing the lineup solves a lot of the bullpen problem

roke1960

I’m not sure the bullpen is the biggest weakness- it is probably the biggest diappointment though. If Bummer comes back healthy, then we’ve got 5 fairly reliable arms- Bummer, Kopech, Crochet, Burr and Hendriks. Yes, I would love to see another veteran arm added to the mix, but I think 2nd base is more critical to fill. Mendick does not belong on the major league roster, and Leury is too valuable to be stuck at 2nd. Plus there are some pretty good options available- Frazier, Escobar, Schoop and Story. with the last 3 just being 2-month rentals.

joewho112

Corner OF and 2B seem like the easiest upgrades. Both can be improved by acquiring competence. The bullpen is about average. Replacing the weakest bullpen arm with a competent arm isn’t going to be as big an impact as getting competent OF/2B.

phillyd

I wouldn’t call Ryan Burr with 16 games in 19 IP and a 4.38 FIP reliable at this point. He is still an unknown. Crochet isn’t reliable at this point either. He looked great this week, last week he looked like he shouldn’t be in the majors.

roke1960

But that’s how it is with most relievers. They are such a volatile group. Look at Chapman. He was absolutley unhittable until Vaughn torched him, now he can’t get anyone out. And just because we acquire an arm to replace Foster, it doesn’t mean he will be lights out automatically. That’s just the nature of relievers.

phillyd

I would feel comfortable with more than 1 reliever with a long track record of MLB success going into the playoffs. The hope was that Bummer and Heuer and maybe even Foster would have that by this postseason, but they won’t.

joewho112

Show me a reliever with a long track record of success who is available (assuming they aren’t going for a closer like Kimbrel)

roke1960

Yeah, a lot of the good relievers now don’t have long track records. Look at Tampa. They have almost continual turnover in their bullpen. I had never even heard of Pete Fairbanks before the playoffs last year, and he closed out the ALCS. And Nick Anderson was their best reliever last year, then he imploded in the playoffs. Relievers are really volatile.

Last edited 2 years ago by roke1960
phillyd

I don’t know who is available. What OF is available? What 2B is available?

joewho112

Those has been covered pretty extensively: Frazier, Escobar, Story, Haniger, Perralta, Bryant, Marte…

phillyd

My point is we can speculate all we want, but until they get traded we don’t know how available they are. I am sure we can come up with a long list of relievers too, but it would all be speculation.

joewho112

And my larger point is that there aren’t many relievers outside of the Kimbrels and Chapmans of the world that have long track records of success.

roke1960

The biggest “available” name outside of Kimbrel is Richard Rodriguez of the Pirates. He’s having a good year, but isn’t really a strikeout pitcher, with 27 Ks in 33.1 innings. Would he be significantly better than Heuer or Burr? Who knows? He has no real track record. Others are Cole Sulser and Tanner Scott of the Orioles, Kendall Graveman of the Mariners, Raisel Iglesias of the Angels, Ian Kennedy of the Rangers. Not exactly a who’s who of relievers.

roke1960

I think the point is, there really aren’t many relievers with long track records. The two joewho mentioned are Kimbrel and Chapman. Kimbrel was absolutely awful the last couple of years and Chapman has had trouble getting anyone out the last 6 weeks.

As Cirensica

Burr effectiveness could be a mirage. He is just an example how volatile bullpen arms can be.

Infield Grass

I’m perfectly happy with

ParisSox

I like your optimism!

Soxfan2

If the Reds are out of it by the deadline, Castellanos is a guy that would be perfect to trade for. Only problem is that they might value the comp pick from that they’ll get when Castellanos declines their QO.

Steve

Yoelqui Cespedes has not yet played a game in the outfield. While that hasn’t been a deciding factor this season, I’d prefer a bit of professional outfield experience in my outfielders.

burning-phoneix

Quote me on this: The Hiroshima Toyo Carps will post Seiya Suzuki this year and the Sox will go all in on him.

jose robcada

Eloy starting his rehab assignment on Friday.

joewho112

If he uses the full 30 days of rehab, he is back for the Twins series on August 9th. If he can come back a few days quicker, there is a series against the Cubs right before that.

GrinnellSteve

Thanks, Cubs!

jhomeslice

I’m the last person to defend Reinsdorf. But I do think that 2020 was a unique year, with unprecedented uncertainty heading into this season as to whether there would even be fans attending games. It is not an excuse for an owner we all know is cheap or for them to have signed Eaton, but they currently have the 15th ranked payroll and have been higher in the past, so it is not unreasonable to hope they might spend at least a little bit next winter.

There are a handful of decent RF candidates next winter. Castellanos, Conforto, Canha, Marte, Chris Taylor, along with Schwarber (not exactly a RF, I know, but is the perfect lefty bat for them). If all those guys are actually available next winter that’s a decent enough selection not limited to one or two guys. One would hope the Sox would finally be able to land someone who makes fans a lot happier than the way they tried to address RF the past 2 years. The bar is certainly low!

MonicaMG

Easy comes, easy goes.

ParisSox

You misspelled Eaton

joewho112

Article on Grandal injury from Fangraphs: https://blogs.fangraphs.com/add-yasmani-grandal-to-the-roll-of-injured-white-sox/#more-367192

Most of it is stuff we already know but one thing I learned was:

On that note, Zavala was hitting just .178/.291/.339 at Charlotte while striking out 42.6% of the time.

We need another catcher ASAP

burning-phoneix

Russel Martin is still actually unsigned.

Root Cause

We are currently watching a baseball sequel to ‘The replacements’.
The outfield is crowded and we hope to add 2 more in the coming weeks.

We need a long-term solution for RF and 2 quality backups (Vaughn being one of those).

I hope Sheets can stick around to see what he might do.

Paul

I’ve been a little curious, Moncada played 2nd base for pretty much all of 2018, and while I don’t recall how he looked per se, Fangraphs has his Defense rated just below 0 (-1.5). Why don’t the Sox move Moncada back to 2nd base while they audition Burger at 3rd base? If Burger can hold his own there, I’m thinking this is the best way to address 2nd base for most of the remainder of the season. If they are going to make some trade(s) heading up to the deadline, this also allows them to focus more on a catcher and right field.

lifelongjd

I think the Eaton signing looked ok at the time and would have played out differently if he wasn’t needed every day. I think the plan was to platoon him and Engel based on matchups. But you’re spot on, relying on a injury plagued veteran who relies on his legs to set up success was a waste of resources.

I am hoping Engel continues to develop into an everyday player. He is still ascending and now is probably out best overall outfielder, so we should be able to see him play the majority of games. For better or worse, the Sox will know if he can be counted on.

Malkatraz

I think the Eaton signing looked ok at the time and would have played out differently if he wasn’t needed every day. 

The signing can’t be both OK and necessitated less playing time.

You don’t give $8 million to a backup.

Right Size Wrong Shape

Platooning with Engel wouldn’t make him a backup – he still would have had a majority of the playing time. Alas, he had to play full time right out of the gate, and everyone knew how that was going to turn out.

lifelongjd

I don’t think he was going to be a backup. He was supposed to start against right handed pitchers, or 60-70% of the games. He had solid splits against RHP.

I was merely indicating there was a strategy behind the signing that made sense that the Sox were not able to employ due to injuries. Eaton was exposed as “washed” when he needed to play every day.

calcetinesblancos

I agree lifelongjd. I think Eaton would have been much better for us if we hadn’t needed him to play so much. I also think he would have been a great late game PH to have on the bench on days he didn’t start.

texag10

I don’t believe the argument that signing Eaton a month later for the same contract would have been viewed in a better light. All the arguments around Eaton would have been the same, the only argument in favor of waiting is the hope that they would have signed someone other than Eaton.

Regarding the actual DFA, I’m not upset he’s gone. We have better options at this point in time. However, he put up 0.3 fWAR and 0.2 bWAR which put him on pace for slightly less than 1 WAR over a full season which was a little less than my expectations for him but not surprisingly so.

I’m actually interested to see what happens when Eloy comes back. What makes it so easy to DFA Eaton is the fact that we have Hamilton and Goodwin both outperforming him. We’ve gotten Engel back. Vaughn is probably better in LF than Eloy is. Sheets is hitting pretty well. Garcia isn’t going anywhere. We can’t really send Mendick down since we don’t really have MI depth. I guess Burger is first to get sent down? Weird that this is a train of thought I’m currently having.

roke1960

I’m guessing Burger goes down when Eloy comes back, Sheets goes down when Lamb comes back and Mendick goes down when they acquire a second baseman. Those are the logical options. Leury isn’t going anywhere, Goodwin can cover the corner OF spots better than Sheets, and Billy is a legend. The big question is who goes when Robert comes back? Then I would guess it’s Lamb or Goodwin, whoever is performing worse.

texag10

It’s a good position to be in where you don’t want to send down your prospects because they are actually performing. Hopefully the bigger sample size once Eloy gets back will clear things up a bit more.

soxygen

I can understand the argument for sending Burger down if it is developmental. Sure, he needs regular playing time.

That said, I’m not sure that it needs to be a batter. It could be Matt Foster, who is rarely used.

Infield Grass

Didn’t have a problem with the signing of Eaton at the time to platoon with Engel becauee I believed in Engel and because Eaton was the only natural rightfielder among the non-Springer options when they knew they already had a complete defensive liability in left with Eloy. Eaton also brought something beyond OPS as a baserunner and through the first part of the season Eaton’s ability to first to third or score from first mattered and helped them score runs without the homer. Outfield defense and the lack of speed in the lineup definitely contributed to giving up more runs and scoring less in recent weeks, which was compounded by other guys being out in addition to Eaton. Now Eaton is expendable due to some other pleasant surprises that weren’t even in consideration by anybody during free agency including Vaughn being decent enough in left. I’ll take it, but I still have no desire to see Sheets in right and especially not with Goodwin in center again this season. Protect the pitching by catching the ball and limiting outfield hits to singles.

soxygen

I watched a lot of Nationals games and Eaton did not seem like a good bet to be able to play RF.

He was a valuable player when he could get a ton of infield hits and cover a lot of ground in the outfield. He was not that player anymore when the Sox signed him.

joewho112

It’s the plight of a guy whose game was being a little bit above average at a lot of things but great at none. A small slide in ability and suddenly he’s below average at everything with no carrying skill to prop up his value.

MarketMaker

would be interesting to know what eaton would have signed for if the sox hadn’t inexplicably rushed to make a deal.

As Cirensica

Maybe he wouldn’t have signed at all.

phillyd

Weren’t there reports that multiple teams were interested in Eaton and the Sox jumped when Pederson rejected their $10 million offer.

MarketMaker

it’s kind of a shame that the sox went back to the well on eaton. what they’d done with acquiring him, extending him, and then dealing him was probably about the absolute best display of acumen for the role that hahn has shown in his tenure. the fact that he couldn’t leave well enough alone there and had to piss away $8M to close the books on eaton is an unfortunate look for a guy who has plenty of bad FA signings on his resume.

Steve

Well, if Lamburger can’t cut it in the outfield, there’s always Gloveonchair.

a-t

Seems unlikely at this point that Hahn and co are particularly anxious to ‘solve’ RF long-term. Given the rest of the talent on the team, they seem content to throw internal options or vet minimum signings at it until some amalgamation of competent play emerges. Frankly, I don’t much mind that; it’s cheaper than Eaton or Joc or a similar option, about as likely to work out, and not exactly sacrificing any big ceiling for the position. Based on what we’ve seen, I’m perfectly comfortable with some combo of Engel/Goodwin/Sheets handling RF this season and next.

Furthermore, if the Sox can get cheap competence out of those options, that opens up $$ to be spent on the biggest off-season priority: retaining their two All-Star SPs. I can’t say how much for each— Lynn I guesstimate at 2 years/$50M, Rodon double that at 4 years/$100M. Rodon in particular is hard to gauge because of his injury history, but if he stays healthy, there’s a good chance he’ll be heading into this offseason at age 29 with a shiny new Cy Young on his mantle. Those guys get paid.

jhomeslice

I saw on mlbtraderumors that Grandal had surgery yesterday and there will be an updated timeline coming which could adjust the initial 4-6 week estimate. It said “still expected to play in 2021”, but it sounds like he might be out even longer than they said initially.

As Cirensica

I saw that too…if that’s true, then the priorities of getting help on the deadline shift to a catcher because Seby might be a good defender, but he has shown to be uncapable to hit major league pitches.

joewho112

From yesterday’s Zack Collins post

As Cirensica

I missed that post. This is bad news. WTF with all this several months leg injuries? Covid19 really did a number on athletes.

jhomeslice

I know people have been wanting to blame their conditioning coaches, but it is very unlikely that there have been any drastic changes in fitness training regimen the past year, such as guys lifting much heavier or not stretching. Or being lazy in the offseason, when there was literally nothing else to do but exercise. And the Indians have a ton of injuries also. It seems to be around the league pretty much.

I wonder if it may be the vaccines? I know someone who is 50, very fit and healthy, who had chest pains after his 2nd shot, and a heart attack a month later. Right or wrong he believes it was the vaccine, since he never had any issues before. His doctor does not dismiss the idea. Also a woman in her early 30’s has complained of chest pains, never having had before. There have been documented cases of myocarditis (heart inflammation) in younger people. Perhaps a subtle side effect of the vaccines relates to the heart, and it is related to what seems like a statistically significant number of muscle pull type injuries. I don’t know if there are stats, but the number seems drastically higher than in any other season I can recall. This is just a theory and not a medical opinion, but the number of injuries does seem way out of the norm, enough to ask questions about what might be going on. There may be another explanation, but one thing that is certainly different about this year than any other is the vaccines, the side effects of which have not been subtle for a few people I know.

Last edited 2 years ago by jhomeslice
As Cirensica

Heart and legs injuries…apples and oranges

Covid19 has an impact because players didn’t go thru the whole season. I am sure there was a lot of days without proper conditioning while in confinement, then, a 60 games season was crammed in 2 or so months, then the off season. Then a full throttle 162 games season again, and body parts start to break. I cannot believe this is a coincidence, and the only thing that changed was the covid19 lockdowns

roke1960

Covid19 didn’t cause Eloy to try to climb the fence to catch an uncatchable ball. That was stupidity.

jhomeslice

True. But Engel, Hamilton, Robert, Madrigal, Kopech, Lamb, Bummer all with leg injuries is pretty unusual. As Cir’s idea is probably on point that maybe was conditioning issues created by the lockdowns, though that sounds surprising to me since a lot of people have actually exercised more the past year. Almost cannot be unrelated in some way to Covid and its impacts though, this is just way too many to blame on the conditioning staff.

jhomeslice

You are probably right. Could be some of these players had Covid the past year and is a side effect of that also, who knows. Was just thinking out loud, the number of injuries is certainly crazy though. But certainly relates to Covid and the conditions it created, and removes blame from their conditioning staff.

Last edited 2 years ago by jhomeslice
roke1960

Yeah, this has just been such an abnormal last 16 months. Players are generally creatures of habit, and their routines have been so disrupted by lockdowns, cancellations, etc. Let’s just hope this is a 1-year aberration and things get back to normal for next year.

jhomeslice

Yeah my only point is I’ve seen some people want to blame their conditioning staff, and I think that can’t possibly be justified, or correct.

As Cirensica

The heart could have some impact if blood does not flow properly. Blood heals injuries. Blood carries what muscles need to heal (oxygen), and it also serves as a disposal conduit of “bad things”. But I am talking with no knowledge on this topic.

Infield Grass

More likely the players are over weight trained because of all the time off and their muscles are overpowering ligaments and tendons. Normally a long season is going to break you down and then they have to take recovery time in the off-season. Just watch guys like Robert and Engel run and the torque they put on their body. Cal Ripken never did anything anywhere as close to as stressful on his body as that. Even with Grandal you can look at just how hard he was swinging. You pay attention to them moving and it’s a wonder they aren’t hurt more.

roke1960

That is a very good point. It’s like that with pitchers. Guys who threw upper 90s were few and far between. Now half a dozen guys on each staff throw that. They are just trained to throw as hard as they can. The arm and shoulder was not built for that much stress, and they are going to give out.

roke1960

I wonder if Lance Lynn saying he really enjoyed pitching to Seby will help his cause. If they go with a straight platoon, Seby is a little better against lefties, and Collins is decent against righties. Plus, there aren’t many decent catchers out there. I saw Yadi Moliina mentioned. But why would Molina want to come to the Sox when he likely won’t be needed when Grandal comes back.

As Cirensica

The Indians just grabbed Wilson Ramos from the dumpster for nothing. Yes, Ramos good days are passed, but oh boy…I just looked at his Fagraph page. Nevermind.

roke1960

Yes, there’s a reason why the Indians got Wilson Ramos for nothing, because that is what he is worth.

ndsoxfan

3 out of 4 off-season acquisitions made the all star team….not bad