The Chicago White Sox began their long-awaited (or is it long-suggested?) rebuild earlier this week, and already they’ve made two relatively enormous trades.
First, they traded ace-lefty Chris Sale to the Boston Red Sox for Yoan Moncada (#1 prospect overall), Michael Kopech (#30 prospect overall), and two additional very good prospects.
Today, they’re reportedly set to trade 28-year-old outfielder Adam Eaton to the Washington Nationals in exchange for Lucas Giolito (#3 prospect overall), Reynaldo Lopez (#38 prospect overall), and Dane Dunning (Nationals’ #6 prospect and first round pick in 2016). (Jon Heyman, Scott Merkin, Dan Hayes)
Now that’s how you rebuild (and they still have Jose Quintana, Todd Frazier, and David Robertson to trade if they want to!).
In addition to being the third best prospect in all of baseball (according to MLB Pipeline), Giolito is also considered by many to be the best pitching prospect in baseball. And although he’s only 22 years old, Giolito made his Major League debut for the Nationals last season, which means he’s essentially ready to start playing full time in the big leagues.
Similarly, Reynaldo Lopez is a consensus top-50 prospect in all of baseball and is considered a top ten right-handed pitching prospect overall, as well. Just like Giolito, Lopez is a 22-year-old right-hander who made his Major League debut for the Nationals last season. Getting two top pitching prospects that are Major League ready is not easy to pull off (the Cubs have basically been trying to do it for years), so this is quite the haul for the White Sox.
All together, the White Sox have received four top 50 prospects, two of whom were top five overall types and the other two of which were among the best pitching prospects in baseball. The White Sox have done well.
But it’s not as though they didn’t give up a lot.
Adam Eaton’s starkly improved defense in 2016 might not be sustainable (it came only after he moved to right field), but it helped lead him to a 6.0 WAR season. Even without the advanced defensive metrics loving on him though, he’s a consistent 3-4 win player with five more years of cheap team control.
Throw in the fact that he’s 28 years old, left-handed, and capable of playing center field, and, well, yeah, maybe the high price makes sense. Even still, you have to be thrilled about the return as a Sox fan – even if you might wonder why he was not the type of player you might want to keep around, considering the age and proximity to the Majors of the guys they got in return. [Brett: Consider that Eaton was under team control for just as long as lefty Carlos Rodon … and it’s not like the White Sox are out there looking to deal Rodon. Give quality to get quality, though.]
Now, the question is if the White Sox are going to trade Jose Quintana, Todd Frazier, and David Robertson, too. On the one hand, both are pretty affordable, good, and under control for a while longer, but on the other hand, you might never be able to get much more for any of them, especially the pitchers. There is both an absence of available talent on the free agent market and a seemingly ever-growing bubble surrounding dominant back-end relief types. If you’ve already traded Sale and Eaton, perhaps trading the rest of the crew is worth it, too. Of course, the Sox can always wait until the deadline.
Too bad the Cubs share a city with them, eh?
As for the Nationals, they lose a ton of near-term young talent, but also gain a significant immediate impact in Eaton. They will be improved in 2017 and 2018, the years they appear to be targeting for prime contention (before Bryce Harper and Daniel Murphy hit free agency). Perhaps they’ll meet the Cubs in the playoffs.
Brett Taylor contributed to this post.