The 2021 White Sox made a few roster moves on Wednesday, one of which was a surprise to many.
Fans welcomed outfielder Adam Engel back from the injured list. However, the corresponding move caused a little stir among the faithful. In order to make room for Engel, the Sox designated outfielder Adam Eaton for assignment.
This designation, in all likelihood, brings Eaton’s second stint with the Sox to an end. He was signed to a one-year, $8,000,000 contract this past offseason. It was all but certain that Eaton was not going to be on the South Side long-term. Still, it is somewhat surprising to see a veteran lefty bat let go before the all-star break.
2021 White Sox: The Outfield Scramble
The release of Eaton adds to the saga of the outfield of the 2021 White Sox. The Sox started the season among the favorites to win the American League Central. A series of injuries have some prognosticators changing their forecasts.
Slugging left fielder Eloy Jimenez was injured late in March. Gold Glove center fielder Luis Robert suffered a serious leg injury. Both remain on the injured list, although there is hope they will return in August. Either player rejoining the active roster would be a major boost to the club’s championship hopes.
Eaton had been playing hurt for most of the season, spending some time on the IL. He had been projected to be the regular Sox right fielder, giving the team a veteran presence to go along with the two rising young superstars. However, when healthy, Eaton struggled to hit as consistently as the Sox would have liked. In spite of an excellent beginning to the season, Eaton was slashing .201/.298./344. Those numbers just were not going to work for the 2021 White Sox as they seek to make a deep playoff run.
Impact On The Outfield
So, what does this mean for the outfield as the season progresses? The immediate impact is that Engel will likely play every day, usually in center field. In right field, the spot Eaton vacates, manager Tony La Russa may deploy a rotation until deciding on one primary starter. For now, candidates include Leury Garcia, rookie Gavin Sheets, Billy Hamilton, and Brian Goodwin, among others. However, La Russa has shown a great ability to mix and match this season, keeping fans and opponents alike guessing as to who will be in right.
If Jimenez and Robert return this season, the likely outfield would be Andrew Vaughn in left, Robert in center, and Engel in right. Vaughn has adapted pretty nicely to left field this season, and he figures to be a big piece down the stretch for the 2021 White Sox. Of course, La Russa may also decide to platoon along the way, but the trio of Vaughn/Robert/Engel seems the most likely combination.
Full Speed Ahead
As has been the case all season, the White Sox will continue to go full speed ahead. No matter who is on the roster or on the field, the team continues to play winning baseball, lead by what is arguably the best rotation in all of Major League Baseball. Fans should expect more of the same in Eaton’s absence. Yes, there may be a trade or two before the deadline, but the goal remains the same. Though this team is built for the long run, they also realize what is right in front of them. The 2021 White Sox have one focus, and we will see in late October just how it all plays out. Stay tuned.
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