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Adam Eaton trade reaction roundup: White Sox draw compliments, some raves

Rick Hahn earns passing grades for three-team deal with the Angels and Diamondbacks

David Manning-USA TODAY Sports

Rick Hahn and the White Sox finally tried to WIN THE WINTER with a three-team deal, acquiring Adam Eaton from the Diamondbacks while sending Hector Santiago to the Angels. Upon first glance, the reaction seems to be varying degrees of positive, ranging from "can't hurt" to "could really help."

The presence of Kevin Towers and the Diamondbacks might have made the Sox' part look a little more sensible by proximity.  Various writers and analysts seemed to save most of their venom for the snakes, and the worst of it came from their fans. Jim McLennan at AZ Snake Pit saw three big problems with trading Tyler Skaggs and Adam Eaton for Mark Trumbo and two players to be named later:

  1. It addressed a non-existent problem
  2. It didn't actually fix the real issue
  3. Towers overpaid for the talent

When the outlet that would normally be most receptive to the silver lining isn't seeing it, that means it's confusing enough to draw the attention of the more objective observers.

Here's a rundown of my reading. As always, if you see something, say something.

Meanwhile, Skaggs isn't the only ex-Diamondback trying to forget a rough 2013. In 2012, Adam Eaton batted .381 with all the goodies in Triple-A Reno. But this season, he suffered from an elbow injury, a bad case of the hives, and didn't play well when he did play. But now he's the White Sox' every-day center fielder.

Essentially, the Diamondbacks have traded two players who might be good, or really good, for a player who's already exactly what he's going to be. The White Sox are getting one of those players who might be good, and the Angels are getting a couple of pitchers who will probably be decent. It's hard to pick a winner, because everybody was looking for something different, and seems to have gotten those things. But I can't help thinking the Diamondbacks will soon tire of Trumbo's strikeouts and his defense.

The problem is his short, 66-game season was contradictory. He worked the count like the patient hitter he had been in the minors (he averaged 85 walks per 162 games played, although the rate flattened out as he rose), but the approach resulted in just 17 free passes in 277 plate appearances. [...] Will it change? It will have to, because Marcus Semien, like Eaton, might not do enough to start in the major leagues if he's not exceptionally patient.

At the very least, Eaton should provide more defensive stability in center field than Alejandro "This is where I stand, right?" De Aza. Although the Sox' farm system has about as many useful position players as New Jersey has Komodo dragons, they do have some pitchers ready to go, including Andre Rienzo, who pitched decently in a 10-start audition this fall. They shouldn't miss Santiago much.

Eaton missed the first part of '13 with a sprained elbow ligament and it is possible that this impacted his performance. He shouldn't be expected to duplicate his Triple-A numbers at the major league level; Reno is a hitter's park in a hitter's league, but he runs very well, has a quality glove in center field, makes contact, and has more power than your typical 5-8 hitter. He just turned 25 and has nothing left to prove in the minors. At worst Eaton should be a good fourth outfielder, but his skills are broad enough that he deserves a full trial.

Arizona gets the most visible player in the deal, and the player most likely to deliver the most highlights. Los Angeles gets the top pitching prospect, who could go in any number of directions. And the worst team involved makes the best deal involved, turning a mediocre young starter into a potential everyday center fielder who could stick around for years. It’s not going to be easy to turn the White Sox into winners, but these kinds of fairly quiet moves can help a whole lot more than they hurt.

The White Sox picked up a player who was a favorite of mine heading into the 2013 season, outfielder Adam Eaton, a scrappy, hard-nosed, grinder type who has worked to make himself into a good enough defender that he could be average in center with work on his reads and above average or better in a corner.

He has an outstanding approach at the plate, getting himself into a lot of hitter's counts with the ability to foul off pitches he doesn't feel like he can take. He's an above-average runner whose only real negative is fringy power that could end up as 15-plus homers in the White Sox's homer-friendly home park.

(Then he kinda undermines it with the last paragraph, saying De Aza is the incumbent center fielder, so Eaton may have to play right, because Avisail Garcia should start the season in Charlotte.)

Eaton was hurt as the 2013 season unfolded. I believe he may have returned too quickly. He tried too hard to live up to his very positive advanced billings as a speedy contact hitter with good defensive ability.

Eaton fell short of expectations by failing to get on base often enough to use his plus speed to steal bases. In addition, he got some late reads on balls hit to center field and struggled at times to be the defender he had always projected. His playing time diminished as A.J. Pollock saw increased opportunities to play center field as the season wore on.

It appears Pollock will likely inherit the center field role from Eaton.

With the White Sox, Eaton will have a fresh start. He can become a successful center fielder in the AL Central.

What the outside world is thinking: Eaton may have been expendable in Arizona because of the emergence of A.J. Pollock. But it's hard to find anyone who has seen him who has a negative word to say about him. Asked if he had any fears about him, one scout said: "I guess you could say that kids who play with that kind of aggression and energy are guys you'll always worry about with injuries. And I'm not sure if he's a difference-maker or a nice complementary player. But I think he fills in a lot of cracks for them. I love the way he plays the game. He brings them a lot of intangibles that I don't think we value enough."

The view from here: Of the three teams involved, the White Sox's end of this trade probably carries the least risk, unless Eaton turns out to be a kamikaze who runs into a never-ending string of injuries. "I like what the White Sox did in this deal," said one scout. "My biggest questions are: Will Skaggs be the pitcher -- or close -- Jerry thinks he will be, and will Trumbo produce the way Kevin thinks he will? Those are the two big questions. I really don't have a lot of questions about what the White Sox got. I think Eaton will be exactly what they expect him to be."

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