The new Adam Eaton just needs to find old production

Adam Eaton won’t be able to suit up in a White Sox uniform for at least another two months, so there isn’t much left to say about the gap between what the White Sox think they’re getting for $7 million, and what the most pessimistic interpretation of his recent history says he’ll do, given that’s what the White Sox tend to receive from such deals.

But it’s worth hearing from Eaton himself, since his character is part of the backlash. His proclivity for eyewash and earwash irritated a lot of people around the White Sox his first time around, and he wants a chance to prove he’s learned some things:

“From my own standpoint, four years later, 32 years old, World Series champ and I’ve got two little boys … I think everybody matures differently, matures at different stages of their life, and I feel like I’m no different.”

There’s evidence of growth right there, as he cited his age and family without bringing up a mortgage he didn’t have. But Eaton also indirectly presented the idea that he’s a beneficiary of finally seeing a normal way of doing things. He experienced turbulence in his first two organizations, but the Diamondbacks and White Sox both have strange chains of command that will let dysfunction run wild if it takes root.

Eaton didn’t say the White Sox were abnormal or unhealthy, but the things he described with the Nationals suggest a stabler hierarchy.

“We had so many great events with the players, being able to go to everyone’s houses. We had a party probably once every two weeks where families were able to get together and enjoy one another, and that was something that I was kinda new to. Didn’t really have that type of connection where we were able to get on really a personal basis[…]

“There were a number of different things that have really transformed me, to realize that the team is No. 1, the players within the team are definitely right up there with it, and you want to take care of one another, play for one another, and win a championship in the end.”

Eaton also said the Nationals were different than any other team he’d played for when citing their rally from 12 games under .500 to a title, working hard to not attempt to smear his previous experiences:

“As weird as it sounds, I don’t think on any team that I’ve ever been on, 19-31 with the teams in the clubhouse, sometimes they’d be, y’know, very readily to give in — not give in, so to speak, but kinda lose sight, so to speak, on what our goal was. But the guys we had in the clubhouse, again, I cannot celebrate [GM Mike] Rizzo and the organization enough for what they brought. Guys that just fit like puzzle pieces into the clubhouse, the additions we had at the trade deadline. Long story short, through those experiences of ’19, I can kinda see what works and what will be successful.

“I don’t think anybody at that juncture would believe that we would go on to win the World Series and beat a really, really good Houston team. Like I said, through camaraderie and love for one another, and pushing all in the same direction of wanting to win every single day, I’d give credit to the older guys. Max Scherzer, Kurt Suzuki, Yan Gomes, [Ryan] Zim[merman], Howie [Kendrick], [Stephen] Strasburg, the list goes on, Anibal Sanchez, Gerardo Parra, we had a lot of guys who had 10-plus years in the league and knew exactly how to get things done.”

Eaton later cited Scherzer and Kendrick for mentoring him, and he hoped he’d be able to provide the same “bedside manner” to younger players. Whether you believe he’s equipped to provide that, it’s nice to see that nobody around the White Sox is pushing this line that hard.

That represents a big shift from previous offseasons. From the first rebuild to the previous winter, front office members or house media would feel compelled to sell the leadership credentials of their additions as much as their talent, sometimes because the White Sox were notably deficient in that regard in the Robin Ventura years, and sometimes because the talent wasn’t all that compelling itself.

I’m pleased to report that it no longer seems necessary. Lance Lynn might be a fiery competitor and somebody who wants the ball, but he’s better known as somebody who deserves to receive the ball, what with consecutive Cy Young finishes on his track record. Similarly, in the press release and Zoom conference, Hahn cited on-field reasons for Eaton’s acquisition — lefty who can hurt righties, on-base abilities, historically decent defense — with the nods to his time in Washington mostly there to suggest that he’s toned down all of that.

Based on their track record, I’ll need to see evidence that Hahn and the White Sox front office can properly identify a rebound candidate by assessing the “underlying skills” beneath a bad year. Still, it’s nice to see baseball reasons return to the fore for baseball acquisitions. Now everybody just needs to hope said baseball acquisition has enough good baseball left in the tank.

(Photo by Randy Litzinger/Icon Sportswire)

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Jim Margalus

Writing about the White Sox for a 16th season, first here, then at South Side Sox, and now here again. Let’s talk curling.

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roke1960

Excellent analysis, as usual, Jim. The skill set that Eaton brought to the White Sox last time he was here plays perfectly to what the Sox need out of the 8th spot- high OBP, a grinder mentality, good speed. Whether he still has that same skill set 4 years later is the big question. If he is close to that skill set, he will be a great addition. And having a couple of little kids certainly helps put a new perspective in one’s life. I’m looking forward to seeing the same, feisty ballplayer that he was without the clubhouse drama that he brought last time.

Soxfan2

I was really angry about this signing when it first happened but it has grown on me a bit. Even in a horrific 2020, Eaton was still 74th percentile in Sprint speed and 86th percentile in outfield jump. So I think the defense is still there somewhere although by DRS and UZR over the last 2 years, It hasn’t been.

If he can be a non-negative defender and be a 100 wRC+ guy, it sets the path to 2 WAR guy in 2020, which would be fine with me.

joewho112

Imagine rooting for a team that doesn’t require rose colored glasses to see it acquisitions as merely average starters

dwjm3

Yup, I feel the same way. We can just go out and get a legit guy like Springer who will give us the numbers and the only reason we aren’t is Jerry doesn’t want to allocate the money. The odds are right now we will be looking for another right fielder next year after the traditional Hahn flop.

Last edited 1 year ago by dwjm3
Eagle Bones

As much as I can’t stand him as a person and I don’t like the signing, I have to admit I loved his skillset during his first stint with the team.

denman

If Eaton was being genuine during his press conference he’s matured into a better person and his underlying stats suggest that his skills haven’t totally eroded. I doubt that anyone, not even Hahn thinks this is an overwhelming great signing; but, to echo asinwreck, if you look at free agent RIGHT-FIELDERS (as oppose to center-fielders who might want to stay center-fielders or LF/DH types who would be defensively over-exposed in right) Eaton meets the Sox needs better than the rest.

MrStealYoBase

As much as I still hate how unaggressive this move is, after thinking through the logic, I can at least understand what the White Sox are thinking. (Provided that they do actually spend on the bullpen)

This was a top 2 lineup in the AL with above average defense in 2020 despite the “contributions” of Mazara and EE. Even with regression from Abreu (likely) and Anderson (slightly less likely), improvements from Moncada, Eloy, and Robert should balance it out. What’s the marginal value of going from “probable top 3 lineup in the AL” to “arguably the best”? Compare that to the marginal value of adding the projected best reliever in baseball and going from “above-average” to “probable top 5” bullpen. Add in a starting rotation that has a nice mix of dependable and high-upside and that’s the makings of a pretty well-rounded team.

So if the plan is to add Hendriks and see if maybe they can resign guys like Colome or Jeremy Jeffress on cheap deals in a depressed market, I don’t think it’s a bad one. I still quibble with the timing of the Eaton signing because 1) they probably could have saved a few million if they waited a few months, and given the way this team operates, that’s a few million less to spend on midseason upgrades & 2) someone better could have been available at a similar price eventually if the market continues to stay cold.

HallofFrank

Hendricks and a legit DH make the Eaton signing look better, but also more confusing. As it stands, it looks like they are trying to save money. Which, even if I think is ridiculous, I understand.

The Eaton signing becomes difficult to understand if they do spend, though. They have good internal options—for 2021 and beyond—at bullpen and DH.

Why skimp on your weakest position—2021 and beyond—by far?

karkovice squad

The offense did their damage against lefties. It was a middle of the pack offense against righties. Eaton doesn’t fix that.

MrStealYoBase

Moncada going from a 145 wRC+ in 2019 to 95 wRC+ in 2020 against RHP will do that to you. Even if he only bounces back halfway, that’s a 20% above league average bat that you can slot into the two hole. Luis Robert also doesn’t strike me as a guy that is going to carry a 95 wRC+ against RHP his whole career.

Brantley would help this team out tremendously in that regard. They could use that help. But they might not need it as desperately as it looks. Banking on internal improvements is not a sound strategy but there is reason for optimism that they aren’t just going to be mediocre every time a righty is on the mound.

karkovice squad

Frontrunners should buy certainty not take flyers on a rebound candidate, a return to health for someone who experienced lingering symptoms from a novel human disease, and a sophomore improvement. They had a chance to upgrade and not only passed on it but paid a premium to do so.

MrStealYoBase

1) If this team was a frontrunner they would have gone and got Springer. Jerry sucks. Yada yada yada…

2) Looking at this team in 2020 and then going: “everything that went wrong will continue to go wrong in 2021 and everything that went right will also go wrong” is something we are conditioned to as Sox fans. But it’s not foolhardy to say that on a team with this many high-ceiling players, there wont be at least a couple pleasant surprises.

Eagle Bones

Right but you also can’t assume everything will go right. You need to assume some things will go wrong. And to kark’s point, the more you can minimize those chances, the better.

Eagle Bones

I don’t understand this “the offense is good enough” idea I keep reading. Scoring more runs is ALWAYS a good thing (even if you’re already the best offense in the league). Yes, at some point you’re going to get diminishing returns if you’re replacing a 3 win player with a 4 win player, but we’re talking about a spot the Sox have gotten literally nothing from in years. It would provide a MAJOR impact to get a significant upgrade there.

MrStealYoBase

To be clear: I don’t like the move, however I understand what they are thinking.

If they want to invest in the bullpen as an area of improvement it’s not without logic. There are a bunch of examples of teams outperforming projections over the past decade on the backs of strong bullpens. Plus, bullpens have outsized importance to playoff performance compared to the regular season.

Of course, it would all be a moot point if Jerry actually would just spend at a level commiserate with the market size and the quality of the team. If I had a million dollars I’d also be a millionaire.

Eagle Bones

I don’t disagree with anything you’re saying here. I just feel like I keep seeing people twist themselves into a pretzel trying to logically conclude that upgrading the offense wouldn’t have much impact because it was already good and that just doesn’t make any sense. There were a bunch of offseason plans that said something like this and I see it a ton on Twitter (I know, it’s Twitter, but still).

lifelongjd

Great article. The narrative has changed, obviously and dramatically. Eaton doesn’t have to be a clubhouse leader nor does he even need to produce at a high level on a daily basis. If we are buying Engel’s development as a platoon partner against lefties, then Eaton maybe a pretty good fit. Just needs to get on base and provide above average defense to make this a good move. And keep his mouth shut. If we can pull off a Hendricks signing, this team looks pretty good.

knoxfire30

I’m gonna save the pitch fork and torch talks for now… a lot of off-season is left and a high end closer, an additional dh bat especially if its an upper end guy will make for a “successful” off-season even though it wont have the go for the juggler “cub plan” type feel to it.

Two things I have not heard talked about enough:

1.) Your main core goes from dirt cheap to semi expensive to real expensive over the next 3 to 4 seasons so not buying now is a terrible sign that any money to buy will be available later. Gumby style flexibility hasnt given us a big splash imagine what will happen when we are my knees and lower back flexible getting out of bed in the morning.

2.) The whitesox were 4 games below 500 last year vs right hand pitching. Everyone else in baseball knows this, and so far the sox move to fend off the wave of righties they are going to see this year is the hope of a useful slap hitting 8 hitter having a bounce back season….

MrStealYoBase

1) The increases in salary are somewhat offset by the Keuchel, Grandal, & Abreu contracts coming off the books. It’s not like they have $100M+ allocated before they even start the offseason.

2) Moncada v RHP 2019: 145 wRC+
Moncada v RHP 2020: 95 wRC+
Robert v RHP 2020: 95 wRC+

If I was a betting man I would put money that both their numbers improve in 2021. “Internal improvement” is a phrase front offices throw around to avoid spending, but it’s not like it isn’t realistic to expect in this case.

Eagle Bones

Aren’t they going to need to use the money they save on those guys to replace them? Don’t think those guys becoming FAs really helps, does it? It’s not like that’s dead money they’re spending on useless players, those guys are all good. So they’ll need to replace those guys while the rest of the roster gets more expensive. And oh yeah, their minor league system is pretty much barren once Kopech, Madrigal and Vaughn all officially graduate. So…

Last edited 1 year ago by Eagle Bones
phillyd

2 of those 3 have legit internal replacements though. Ideally Vaughn would replace Abreu for league minimum. You could argue that Kopech would be replacing Keuchel but I am thinking that Crochet replaces Keuchel as I am hoping Kopech is already established.

knoxfire30

Vaughn hasn’t played above single A, kopech has like 3 mlb starts and hasn’t thrown a real pitch in 2 years… im hopeful for those guys but assuming they are gonna be automatically good bets to replace proven talent is very dangerous

Eagle Bones

They’re also guys we’re already essentially penciling into the current roster. Yes, Vaughn can replace Abreu at 1B, but most are already penciling him in at DH for this year. So then you still need to fill DH. Ditto with Kopech and Keuchel.

knoxfire30

Jerry is that you?

The money isn’t close to being offset when you need to replace an mvp a all star catcher and the guy who finished 5th in the cy young in 2020

The time for a massive upgrade was now. Springer, Bauer, types gonna keep harping on it.

Everyone is assuming whoever was good in 2020 is gonna be good in 2021 but everyone who was bad will be good. What if giolito or kuechel trend down…what if we get 2018-19 abreu not 2020 version…

If you add premium free agents they mitigate a ton of regression and injury risk. Thats what a normal team on the verge of a championship level team would go out and do.

MrStealYoBase

Yeah I don’t disagree with you but that’s not what my point was (?) The original comment made it out to be like 2023-2024 is going to be some kind of payroll reckoning. It isn’t.

Jerry will have just as much money to not spend in 2024 as he has money to not spend in 2021.

Eagle Bones

I think the original point was not that there was going to be some kind of reckoning (though with this team, it’s not out of the realm of possibility), but that the payroll situation isn’t going to get better from here within this competitive window, it’s only going to get worse.

knoxfire30

Bingo. This is the year to buy big. If not now it will be never.

Oddvark

My biggest takeaway from the Eaton call was that he REALLY liked the Nationals organization and his time there. I don’t think I’ve heard anyone praise his former team and teammates so much on an introductory call to a new team.

Hopefully, that is indicative of a newfound focus on team and teammates (as he suggested), and won’t lead to friction in the clubhouse with Eaton repeatedly saying “When I was on the World Champion Nationals, we did it this way …”

karkovice squad

Does Rick selling us on Eaton’s edge and championship experience count or was that just the affirmative defense against him being a drag on team culture?

dansomeone

If it’s an affirmative defense, then Rick has the burden of proof. Guess we’ll have to wait and see.

billyok

I don’t want a new Adam Eaton. What the fuck, Santa, I made that clear as hell

Last edited 1 year ago by billyok
karkovice squad

It’s possible the letter didn’t make it because of the cuts to postal service and unprecedented levels of postal demand.

billyok

Well then who ate my cookies!

Eagle Bones

Nah, he got the letters. His supply chain has been interrupted. Everyone who asked for George Springers this year is getting an Adam Eaton and they’ll like it.

andyfaust

Enjoyed this Jim. Your point is well taken that leadership is talked about far less when a team is brimming with talent. At least, that’s what I took from it.

And although the bar was laughably low, the Eaton quotes you included were some the smartest, most thoughtful things he may have ever said.

asinwreck

Given the memo to not assume a universal DH, I wonder if the Sox are having conversations with the agents of a lot of DH types selling them on an actual DH slot with a contender. Brantley seems unlikely given Nightengale’s tweet, and I’d guess if there was any inkling they were interested in Cruz or Schwarber that we would have heard by now, but has anyone said anything about Rosario? Adam Duvall?

Getting a cromulent DH who can cover a corner or two in a pinch strikes me as a good use of that roster space. If Vaughn is ready for regular at-bats by the summer, having someone who won’t hurt the lineup too badly if Eloy or Eaton miss time again is a good use of the roster space.

I can’t get worked up about Eaton. The actual RF free agent candidates this offseason (I am not including Springer or Bradley because I think the CF market is too robust for them to move off the harder position, and Ozuna and Brantley do not seem physically capable of playing the position at this stage in their careers) are so uninspiring. Trading for the contracts of Bryce Harper or Kris Bryant or even Jason Heyward would have put a better player in RF for 2021, but even if Jerry would pay (ha), I have no idea what talent would have to be part of the return. Not signing Harper two years ago still hurts.

Eagle Bones

Given that same memo, I wonder if Jerry is talking to MLB about moving to the NL so he has one less starting position player to pay.

asinwreck

Or to the Appalachian League so he won’t have to pay players at all.

Soxfan2

I like your idea of getting someone that can DH and play corner OF. Brantley and Schwarber fit that profile the best as DH/LF types.Then you can take a look at guys like Eddie Rosario or Robbie Grossman who can play both LF/RF.

I’m not advocating for any of those players necessarily but those are essentially your options for 1 year deal type guys. Brantley would be the best but it looks like be will out of price range per usual.

Last edited 1 year ago by Soxfan2
denman

From the estimates I’ve read, especially if the NL won’t have a DH, Brantley will command something around 30MM/2yrs. $15MM AAV that’s off the books in 2 years doesn’t sound “cost prohibitive” for a player that greatly improves the offense against right-handers and brings nothing but positives in terms of clubhouse presence, professionalism and plate discipline. Maybe I’m simply “in denial” about the extent of JR’s stinginess but I find it hard to believe that the owner who championed Harold Baines’ HOF induction wouldn’t highly value the games current “profession hitter” who very much seems a clone of Baines with slightly less power. I’m holding on to the belief that all the “not in on Bradley talk” is just Hahn/Williams effort to keep Sox business private.

ParisSox

So he’s in the BSOHML – Best Shape of His Mental Life.

asinwreck

Of the people Harrelson fired in 1986 that I’d want Jerry to bring back, the current manager is behind the free agent who just struck it rich.

dwjm3

Dombrowski would never be able to function with Jerry’s limited budgets.

asinwreck

That’s not his recent history, but what he worked with in Montreal and (except for one year) Florida made the Sox look like the Yankees by comparison. The Phillies emphasized his track record of successful drafting in their announcement today, and it is worth remembering he can build a minor league system….if that’s the priority of ownership.

joewho112

I’ve never understood why proven GM’s make so much less that players. Dombrowski has an much claim to finding wins for his team as Stroman but he will make 1/4 what Stroman makes

Root Cause

If a poor man is doomed to buy twice then a
the greedy man is doomed to buy 20?

You cannot be statistically this bad, with this sample size.
Pulling names out of a hat would have better results.

This must be by design.
I just don’t understand the goal.

asinwreck

The Rockies’ non-tendering of David Dahl seems like the beginning of a massive selloff. Nick Groke and Eno Sarris reported that most of the Colorado analytics department is gone.

the Rockies are now potentially dealing with another widening competitive gap in their analytics department. It is a team led by assistant general manager Zack Rosenthal and his lieutenant, Domenic Di Ricco, both of whom remain with the club. But just two of the six researchers below them who were with the team last year still remain to continue the work.

As the Rockies try to trade Nolan Arenado and Trevor Story, what other parts of the roster would fit well on the Sox? What competitive advantage might the Sox have in dealing with Jeff Birdich’s front office?

Dahl only signed for $3 million. If the Rockies are nontendering a player with multiple years of control left who has demonstrated offensive production already (albeit before 2020), what else are they willing to jettison?

asinwreck

This sounds done.

dongutteridge

If he manages to stay healthy, OPS near .800 and play even adequate defense I will be surprised. Impressed but surprised.