By now you’ve heard the news: Chris Sale was traded to the Boston Red Sox in exchange for Yoan Moncada, Michael Kopech, Luis Alexander Basebe and Victor Diaz.
This is a massive deal by any account as it not only includes one of the best pitchers in baseball as Sale’s 5.2 fWAR tied Rick Porcello and Justin Verlander to pace the American League, but also included arguably the best prospect in all of baseball in Yoan Moncada.
As with all trades, time will tell the impact this has on Chicago and Boston, but the most important thing for the Rays is that the Chicago White Sox are suspected to follow this trade up with more moves as White Sox beat writer, Scott merkin speculates on Twitter.
White Sox players to keep an eye on: Frazier, Robertson, Quintana, Eaton and Jones. The rebuild has begun— Scott Merkin (@scottmerkin) December 6, 2016
Jones is appealing to the Rays because of our glaring bullpen needs, but the player that the Rays should target is Adam Eaton.
Eaton is everything that the Rays love. A speedy gold glove caliber defender who gets on base and is extremely cheap. I’ll start with his contract which is very similar to Archer’s deal in terms of being incredibly team friendly.
Can The Rays Afford Him?
The Rays can lock up Eaton (picking up both options) for five years for a reasonable cost of $38.4 million.
Year - Age - Cost
- 2017 - 28 - $4,000,000
- 2018 - 29 - $6,000,000
- 2019 - 30 - $8,400,000
- 2020 - 31 - *$9,500,000 ($9.5M Team Option, $1.5M Buyout)
- 2021 - 32 - *$10,500,000 ($10.5M Team Option, $1.5M Buyout)
Eaton’s contract is very affordable, even for our beloved Rays.
The value this cheap contract gives Eaton will, of course, play into the Rays acquisition cost, but let’s first take a look at what he does on the diamond.
Can He Play?
Eaton is an excellent outfielder who posted crazy good defensive metrics last year by moving from Center Field to Right Field. A lot of his value comes from his glove as last year he posted the highest UZR of any outfielders with 22.5 and the third highest DRS with 20, although if we break it down to specifically the time he spent in RF those numbers are DRS 22, UZR 25.5 over 980.1 innings.
Both of statistics increased dramatically from the previous two seasons when he patrolled centerfield.
There could be some regression in his UZR next season so we might need some more data of his play in right to get a better idea of his defensive prowess, but there is little doubt from what he did last season that he is an above average defender in right field. Adding Eaton would be a huge improvement over Stephen Souza Jr, who could slot to left.
Eaton creates a lot of value on defense but is no slouch at the plate either. He slashed .284/.362/.428 in 2016 with 14 Home runs with 14 stolen bases on his way to 115 wRC+. He spent the majority of last season leading off, and I would envision him being the new leadoff guy for the Rays, which would open the opportunity to move Forsythe into a better run driving position in the lineup. A line up of...
...would be able to extend the lineup and allow Forsythe, Longoria and Miller more opportunities to drive in runs.
Eaton also played well against AL East opponents last season to the tune of .290/.394/.440 when playing Baltimore, New York, Boston, and Toronto. He might fit well into the division.
Eaton has produced a 9.7 WAR over his last two seasons; therefore he won’t come cheap. His level of play and team control will require the Rays to loosen their grip on some big prospects.
As far as looking at player comps, I think the Braves/Cardinals Jason Heyward trade is somewhat comparable as far as the type of player that was being traded.
The two years before Heyward was traded he produced an 8.5 WAR which like Eaton was aided by fantastic defensive play. To acquire Heyward, the RedBirds sent Shelby Miller, a pre-arbitration 24-year-old who just came off two successful seasons plus Tyrell Jenkins, a mid-to-low level prospect that projected to be either a back end inning eater or a bullpen swingman.
We would have to start with Willy Adames (to be our Miller) because of his tremendous potential and team control, then would have to add a mid level guy like Jacob Faria (to be our Tyrell) as a low K/inning back of order pitching prospect. Then add in Hunter Wood and Nick Cuiffo to round out the package in terms of team control.
Heyward had one year left on his contract, Eaton has five.
In conclusion, should the Rays trade for Adam Eaton. This move would give the Rays one of the best (if not the best) defensive outfields in baseball with Kiermaier in center, Eaton in right and Souza in left. Dickerson could move to full-time DH and give rest days to the others as needed.
The acquisition would also provide the Rays with a proven leadoff hitter who would allow them to move Forsythe down in the order and give the big at bats with more opportunities to drive in runs.