Among a quad of option declines, the Nationals have decided to move on from outfielder Adam Eaton, who had a $10.5 million option with a $1.5 million buyout.
JUST IN: The Nats have declined Adam Eaton and Aníbal Sánchez's 2021 club options. They have also declined their portions of Howie Kendrick and Eric Thames' mutual options. pic.twitter.com/CI6bMCeNag
— Nationals on MASN (@masnNationals) October 28, 2020
The call on Eaton – a mere $9 million decision – is an interesting one, because it’s the first we’ve seen so far that indicates things are probably not business as usual. I mean, we already KNOW it, but this is the first actual decision that points to it.
To be sure, Eaton, who’ll play next year at age 32, is coming off a very down 2020 season at the plate (.226/.285/.384, 75 wRC+). But in a normal time, retaining a guy who posted a .365 OBP in 2019 (the last normal season), and who has been above average at the plate six years running until 2020, would be a fairly easy decision. At just $9 million, the risk is that Eaton becomes a part-time player or an eat-some-salary trade piece.
But these are not normal times, and teams are going to be looking to save wherever they can. That means $9 million was too steep for Eaton, *AND* the Nationals knew there’d be no market to trade him for that price tag, either. That should tell you something.
Now as a free agent, Eaton will be an interesting guy to watch, because he can play both corner outfield spots passably, runs the bases well, and normally posts a huge OBP (especially if you sit him against most lefties). He doesn’t strike out, he takes his walks, all that stuff. If you don’t think he’s washed after 2020, then he’s a guy a lot of teams would probably love to get on the cheap and have available as a top-tier fourth outfielder.
For the Cubs, specifically, the good version of Eaton sure would be a great bat to have in this lineup. Certainly a different style than most of the core.