White Sox: Did Analytics Help Bring Back Monster Return for Eaton?

Apr 5, 2016; Oakland, CA, USA; Chicago White Sox right fielder Adam Eaton (1) hits a single against the Oakland Athletics during the third inning at the Oakland Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 5, 2016; Oakland, CA, USA; Chicago White Sox right fielder Adam Eaton (1) hits a single against the Oakland Athletics during the third inning at the Oakland Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports /
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White Sox make solid trade involving outfielder in exchange for a handful of top prospects. Although the outfielder has been solid defensively, did analytics play a huge role in the return for the South Siders?

When the Chicago White Sox acquired three of the top ten prospects in the Washington Nationals farm system, many would have assumed that Jose Quintana was involved. However, that was not the case, as the White Sox shipped Adam Eaton to the Nats by himself for pitchers Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, and Dane Dunning.

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Now, Eaton is a valuable asset by himself, but did the White Sox rob Washington in this deal? The general consensus so far would be yes, as Giolito has been ranked as high as #3 overall on MLB.com, not to mention Lopez is the 38th overall prospects. On top of that, Dunning was the Nats first rounds pick in 2016, going 29th overall.

While the White Sox just sent ace Chris Sale packing to the Red Sox, could Giolito come in and take his spot? In time possibly, as his stuff is just as good. Giolito’s fastball can touch 100 MPH, not to mention he also brings a hard curveball and plus changeup. While his command and control are not on par with his stuff, which is why he has yet to dominate at the professional level.

The second piece in the deal, Lopez, can also scrape 100 MPH with his fastball. Lopez’s heater has good life, not to mention he compliments it with a plus curveball and changeup. Depending on who the White Sox acquire in the future, Lopez could either pitch as a starter, or out of the bullpen.

While the first two pitchers are already top prospects, the third piece in the deal, Dunning, could become a very good big leaguer. His ceiling is projected to be a mid-rotation starter, even though he has shown the ability to pitch out of the bullpen. Dunning’s fastball/changeup combo is good, as the difference is around 10 MPH, not to mention he may develop a good slider.

Now, here is the reason why this was a huge overpay. Eaton is a very good player, but he is not worth what the Nats gave up. As a matter of fact, the return the Nats sent to the White Sox was that of an All-Star, something Eaton is not. Here is why the White Sox robbed the Nats: analytics. Just by looking at Eaton’s overall stats, they are good, but outside of triples he is unlikely to lead the league in anything. However, there is a catch.

Looking at his WAR, Eaton has produced a 5.2, 3.9, and 6.2 rating over the last three seasons. That is just looking at the offensive numbers, as Eaton also profiled as a strong defensive outfielder at all three spots. He posted a DWAR of 1.8 this season (all three), not to mention had a zone rating of 8.822 in right field in ‘16.

Eaton’s value was also increased by the fact that his contract is so team-friendly, considering that he won’t be an unrestricted free agent until 2020. The Nationals also have two options in 2021 and 2022, however they could choose to keep him through 2020 for no more than $8.4 million per season.

Next: White Sox Trade Adam Eaton to Nationals

To say the least, the White Sox made out like bandits in this trade. Considering what they dealt to acquire Eaton (Hector Santiago, etc.), this isn’t worst return on investment. While 2017 will be a long year, the future is brighter than ever on the South Side. Enjoy more big trades, White Sox fans.