Sadly, the title of the post isn’t about my long-unfinished script featuring teenagers trying to get laid one summer while getting into some zany antics at the car wash they all work at. No, it’s about the return of one Adam Cory Eaton to the South side of Chicago, who Rick Hahn signed to a 1 year deal today worth $7 million dollars.
The signing caps a wild 12 hours which saw the Sox send Dane Dunning and Avery Weems (who’s name can be rearranged to spell Weever Yams) to the Rangers for their Ace and professional Bluto cosplayer Lance Lynn. One of these moves I’m all for, the other one not so much.
Let’s dive in, shall we?
2020 Stat Line: .226/.285/.669 4 HR, 17 RBI, 22 R, 3 SB, 18.2% K Rate, 75 wRC+
2019 Stat Line: .279/.365/.792 15 HR, 49 RBI, 103 R, 15 SB, 16.2% K Rate, 107 wRC+
Well those are two very different looking lines there, aren’t they? To say that Eaton had anything but a miserable 2020 would be a colossal understatement. He looked completely out of sorts, and had trouble putting the ball in play with any type of power. His contact numbers tanked, and his K rate spiked. The Nats (unsurprisingly) declined his $10.5 million option for 2021 and he became a free agent.
His 2019 was a completely different story, as his ability to get on base consistently led him to 3rd on the Nats in runs scored behind Anthony Rendon and Juan Soto. He was also 3rd on the team in stolen bases, and was average in the OF, manning both corner position spots. More importantly, he was also healthy for the first time in ages, playing more than 100 games (151) for the first time in 4 seasons.
If the White Sox had no history with Eaton, I would be cautiously optimistic about this signing. He’s a very good outfielder when he’s able to stay healthy, and has the ability to get on base and score runs when the bigger bats knock him in.
Yet the Sox and Eaton have a very storied history together, and most of it eye-rollingly annoying. Not that anyone has forgotten the Saga of Child MLB Locker Room Leader Drake LaRoche, of which Eaton was a prime player. Looking back, this was the beginning of the Sox rebuild, whether Kenny Williams wanted to admit it or not. Now, at the end of it all right when the Sox are ready to take the AL Central by storm he’s back, like the Ghost of Lockerooms Past.
As it stands now, I personally feel the Sox locker room is as strong as it’s been since quite possibly 2005. Tim Anderson and Jose Abreu are the leaders from the offensive side, and Lucas Giolito has turned into the Mentor Extraordinaire on the pitching side. The addition of Adam Eaton should hopefully be nothing more than what it is at the face: a slightly better platoon player in RF with Adam Engel.
2020 Stats: 6-3/3.32 ERA/89 K/1.06 WHIP/4.19 FIP/1.5 WAR
2019 Stats: 16-11/3.67 ERA/246 K/3.13 FIP/6.8 WAR
On the other side of all of this was the story that broke late last night: that Rick Hahn had sent promising young arm Dane Dunning and Avery Weems (the Sox 6th round selection in 2019) to the Rangers for their ace Lance Lynn.
Looking at Lynn’s stats over the past few years, one thing comes flying out at you. His strikeout numbers jumped huge in 2019, almost 100 Ks more than the 160 he had in 2018. He accomplished this by having TJ surgery in 2016, then moving to the 3rd base side of the rubber in 2017. Oh, and he also started throwing his 4 seam fastball more than any other pitcher in the league. He also managed to add 1.2 mph to his average velocity to the pitch, which is not something that normally happens in 30+ year old pitchers in MLB.
He also increased his control with his cutter, consistently able to throw it away from righties and get swinging strikes, or jam it in on the hands of left handed hitters, blowing up bats and generating weaker contact. The chart below shows clearly his ability to keep the pitch close enough to the zone to force swings (courtesy of Thomas Harrigan @ MLB.COM)
On top of the increased Ks, Lynn eats innings like dots for PacMan. He threw 208 in 2019, the 4th time in his career breaking the 200 inning mark. All this combined makes him a hell of a number 2 starter behind Lucas Giolito, slotting Dallas Keuchel in the 3 spot where he really should’ve been the whole time.
While I really am going to miss Dane Dunning, at best he caps out at a league average 4th starter. The fact that Rick Hahn was able to score someone who was able to put forth stats like that on an abysmal Rangers team is the kind of moves a team who wants to sit at the big boys table makes.
I understand some folks reticence at trading one of the prized prospects collected by Hahn, but ask yourself this question: If the Fernando Tatis Jr trade had never happened, would you still feel the same way about this deal?
The shell shock that some people (rightfully) have about the Tatis trade has lead them to clutch the Sox prospects tighter than Vince McMahon holding onto the idea his wrestlers are independent contractors. It’s an understandable feeling, but one we’re going to have to get past as Dunning will not be the last precious prospect to move on.
Still left for Rick Hahn: solving the closer position, and adding a DH in case Andrew Vaughn isn’t ready for the full time role in 2021. I’m sure I’ll be back here sooner rather than later, so stay tuned.