After missing out on acquiring a couple of players they sought to acquire at the Winter Meetings, the Washington Nationals got outfielder Adam Eaton in a trade with the White Sox. To do so, they sent three right-handed pitching prospects to Chicago: Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, and Dane Dunning.
Eaton has been a very good player for the past three seasons, but the Nationals gave up quite a haul to get him. Giolito came into the 2016 season as one of the very best prospects in baseball, as Baseball Prospectus and MLB.com had him ranked third in the game and Baseball America had him ranked fifth. BA had Lopez ranked 92nd, while BP had him ranked 95th. And on the BP list of the Nationals’ top ten prospects for 2017, Giolito ranked second—behind outfielder Victor Robles—while Lopez was third and Dunning was seventh.
Part of the appeal of Eaton is that he’s already signed long-term at reasonable salaries. He’s guaranteed a total of $18.4 million over the next three seasons with team options of $9.5 million for 2020 and $10.5 million for 2021. He recently turned 28 years old and has hit .284/.357/.414 with a 113 wRC+ for his major league career. In 2016, Eaton was more or less in line with the career line, as he hit .284/.362/.428 with a 115 wRC+. In each of the past two seasons, he hit 14 home runs—after hitting no more than three in a single season before that. And he’s been in the 14-to-18 range in stolen bases in each of the past three years.
From the Mets’ perspective, the trade means they’ll see Eaton for years to come, assuming the Nationals don’t trade him away at some point down the road. But if the former Nationals pitching prospects pan out, they won’t have to deal with facing them. The Nationals look like they’re in better shape for the 2017 season than they were before making the trade, but it’s a move that could hurt them in the long run.