Adam Eaton Free Agency: Back To The Future

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Adam Eaton free agency went a little different than most expected.
Adam Eaton free agency went a little different than most expected.

Adam Eaton free agency wasn’t what people expected it to be. When the Chicago White Sox began their total rebuild after the 2016 season, Adam Eaton was one of their biggest trading chips. Eaton, who had been generally productive in his three years with the White Sox, was sent to the Washington Nationals in exchange for three pitching prospects. The trade, along with the Chris Sale trade, began a process that now has the Pale Hose close to being a perennial contender in the American League.

Adam Eaton Free Agency: Return to the South Side

In his three seasons with the Nationals, Adam Eaton was produced similar offensive numbers to those he posted with the White Sox. While his average slipped to .279 in 2019, he also hit a career high 15 home runs, and stole 15 bases. Eaton hit two home runs and had 6 RBIs in the 2019 World Series.

Adam Eaton free agency was expected to be interesting, but the 2020 season was not kind to Adam Eaton, in terms of performance. He hit a career low of .226, with four home runs and 17 RBIs in 41 games. He also posted a career low OPS of .669. By all accounts, 2020 was the kind of season Adam Eaton would like to forget, especially considering that it was his free-agent year.

Adam Eaton Free Agency: Back To The Southside

Against the backdrop of a poor 2020 season, Adam Eaton had to be wondering what his future might hold. After all, he just turned 32, and had his worst year ever. Add to that the fact that there are several solid free-agent outfielders on the market. Oh, did we mention the overall financial state of MLB, as well as professional sports in general? Eaton surely did not enter the 2020 postseason with a wealth of leverage or bargaining power.

Then, almost out of nowhere, in steps Rick Hahn and the Chicago White Sox to save the day. While many speculated that the White Sox had interest in other right fielder, namely George Springer, Michael Brantley, and Joc Pederson, Eaton’s name barely got a mention in South Side circles. Still, the White Sox shocked a lot of fans when the (still unofficial) word came out that Eaton was to sign with the White Sox.

Adam Eaton Free Agency: Impact On The Sox

At this early date, assessing Eaton’s impact on the White Sox is speculation at best. Bob Nightengale, however, is bullish about their chances. He believes that they are the team to beat in the AL Central in 2021. That may be a bit optimistic, as the White Sox still have a couple holes to fill. Still, Eaton is surely an upgrade over last season’s primary right fielder, Nomar Mazara. Mazara, who averaged 20 home runs per season with Texas, managed to hit just one in the abbreviated season.

Perhaps the bigger questions about Eaton are about his off-the-field conduct. Some have said that he may not have been the best teammate, and perhaps a negative influence in the clubhouse. He seemed to have the ability to get under other people’s skin, as well. His running feud with teammate Todd Frazier was legendary. While these incidents may be anecdotal in nature, it is worth noting that Hahn did ship Eaton out when he got the offer he was seeking.

Adam Eaton Free Agency: What To Make Of It All?

At the end of the day, it is much too early to assess or evaluate the signing of Adam Eaton. One thing is clear, though. The White Sox are committed to strengthening their roster, and addressing clear needs. Coming on the heels of the Lance Lynn trade, the Eaton signing is a warning to the rest of the teams in the American League: The White Sox are serious about winning. Now, the only question that remains is: Are Lynn and Eaton the type of players that can help push the Sox over the top? Nobody will know the answer to that question until the 2021 season unfolds. One thing is clear, though; Sox fans will be watching.

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