White Sox acquire Eaton in three-team deal
Leadoff hitter, center fielder expected to provide spark for lineup
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- If Rick Hahn has his druthers, this current offseason will be the last one of his tenure that actually starts before the end of the previous campaign.
"I could not agree with that more," said a smiling Hahn, speaking to MLB.com at the Walt Disney World Swan & Dolphin Resort after Tuesday's news conference announcing a three-team deal involving his White Sox, the D-backs and the Angels, and sent scrappy leadoff man and center fielder Adam Eaton from Arizona to Chicago.
Hahn, executive vice president Ken Williams and their staff began a quest for improvement sometime late last June when they realized the '12 version of the White Sox was no longer a contender. The White Sox targeted young controllable talent which not only could help the team in the present, as in the upcoming 2014 season, but also form a solid base to build on for consistent future success.
Some people might not see the plan. Some people have questioned it. Some have thrown out free agent or trade suggestions that don't fit this frame of operation, such as third baseman Juan Uribe, a White Sox icon from the '05 World Series champions but not really a fit now and certainly not for multiple years.
Yet, Hahn has stuck to the blueprint really since back in June. It's somewhat similar to the White Sox method of operation in 2007 and 2008, when the team lost 90 games in '07 but Williams and Hahn assembled an American League Central champion for the ensuing season.
In that particular instance, more polished veterans such as Nick Swisher, Orlando Cabrera, Scott Linebrink, Octavio Dotel and even Ken Griffey Jr. were brought into the mix. This present direction falls more under the rebuild or reshaping category, with Eaton joining Avisail Garcia and Jose Abreu.
"Hopefully, when we have the same conversation three or four years down the road, we'll be in a greater place," Eaton told MLB.com by phone from his Springfield, Ohio, home on Tuesday. "But it's special to be in the beginning of it. I'm excited to take my energy into Spring Training and help the team win."
"Clearly our intent in '07 was a quick, quick turnaround," said Hahn, pointing to a little more player control and development as part of this turnaround. "We had some young players at the big league level contributing who we felt were going to be championship-caliber players, and we were able to win the division the next year. Now, we like some of the pieces at the big league level, but it's important to augment to a significant extent over the next couple of years."
Adding Eaton immediately gives the White Sox a true top-of-the-order hitter, a player who can make things happen with his legs as well as his bat, and a stronger defensive presence in center. The left-handed-hitting Eaton missed most of the first half of last season with a sprained ligament in his left elbow but was operating at "110 percent" by the end of last season.
Abreu, Garcia and Eaton figure to be hitting in the top four of the White Sox lineup, although manager Robin Ventura wasn't committing to anything during his Tuesday interview session, knowing more moves could be on the way. Dayan Viciedo and Alejandro De Aza could provide a righty-lefty platoon in left field or De Aza could transition into a fourth outfielder slot, with Viciedo as the starter.
Other teams have asked about both in trade talks, and Hahn will continue to listen to overtures for his personnel.
"Toward the end of the season and going into the offseason, you're looking at what you'd like to have, and this is one of those [moves] you target," Ventura said. "Rick's been high on Eaton, and it's the kind of piece that you like."
"Viciedo has the ability to be an impact player as an everyday player. I don't think he is limited to being a platoon-type player," said Hahn. "To get the most out of his production right now, picking certain matchups might help him and get him back on track to being the player we think he's capable of being."
Left-handed pitcher Hector Santiago and a player to be named, who is believed to be outfielder Brandon Jacobs, became the cost for obtaining Eaton. As Hahn said, to get something you have to give up something, but this opportunity was too good to pass up.
An already solid pitching staff that included Santiago was supplemented by the Monday signing of Felipe Paulino, who projects as the team's fifth starter. That pickup gave the White Sox room to maneuver with Santiago, and Eaton's arrival does the same for the outfield.
Work still needs to be done for the '14 White Sox and beyond, but Hahn believes he's on the right course, set midway through last season.
"We've done our best to articulate as soon as it was feasible in the middle of last season without taking away from what we were trying to accomplish during the season," Hahn said. "We were pretty clear about what our long-term goals were and how we were going to go about doing it. We do feel pleased with our start along those lines.
"Whether we are not doing the best job of explaining what we are trying to accomplish, if that's the case, for that I apologize. We've been consistent for the start about what we are looking for and what our time horizon is."