NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. -- The Nationals were one of the most active teams at the Winter Meetings, inquiring about nearly every major name on the free-agent and trade market. General manager Mike Rizzo came into the week with a deep arsenal of prospects at his disposal, some money to spend
NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. -- The Nationals were one of the most active teams at the Winter Meetings, inquiring about nearly every major name on the free-agent and trade market. General manager Mike Rizzo came into the week with a deep arsenal of prospects at his disposal, some money to spend and the willingness to pull off an aggressive trade.
Rizzo had a plethora of targets -- from White Sox lefty Chris Sale (before he was ultimately traded to the Red Sox) to Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen (who appears set to remain in Pittsburgh) -- and he ultimately pulled off a major move, even if it surprised a lot of people around baseball. Washington acquired outfielder Adam Eaton from Chicago and had to surrender the steep price of Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo López and Dane Dunning, three of the top six prospects in the Nationals' system.
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Eaton gives the Nationals an impact center fielder who is under team control for the next five seasons at a contract under market value, which are all important aspects the Nats coveted this offseason. It's a move the club believes helps now, but was also made with the future in mind.
"Adam fit our club perfectly," Rizzo said. "Left-handed bat, balanced our lineup, high energy guy, edge to him, plays the game the right way, good hitter, good defensive player both in center field and outstanding in the corner, a productive player throughout his career. We see the arrow still going up with him, and he's a guy that will have years of control and cost certainty, and it allows us the flexibility to do many more things."
The trade will place Eaton in center and allow Trea Turner to move back into the infield, and no matter how Dusty Baker decides to fill out his lineup card, it will give the Nationals a strong top of the order. But the Nats are almost certainly not finished this offseason, considering they still need to find bullpen help. They have already pursued a number of options, and for the rest of the offseason, they will likely focus on trying to fill that need through a trade or free agency.
In addition to trading for Eaton, the Nationals made a deal with the Padres prior to the Winter Meetings on Friday, acquiring catcher Derek Norris for Minor League right-hander Pedro Avila.
Rule 5 Draft
The Nationals did not make a pick in Thursday's Rule 5 Draft. The only player they lost was right-hander Philip Walby to the Blue Jays, who pitched for Class A Hagerstown last season.
Eaton may have not been the Nats' first option or target, but he still fills the role as the outfielder and lineup boost they sought. With a new catcher and outfielder, they are almost certainly done adding to their starting lineup of position players.
Washington was unable to complete a deal for a closer during the Winter Meetings, but it has checked in on virtually everyone available. The club made an offer to free agent Kenley Jansen, and it has reportedly had discussions about Alex Colomé of the Rays and David Robertson of the White Sox. Adding to the bullpen will still remain a priority this offseason. And with infielder Danny Espinosa left without a position, the Nationals will also explore his trade value and focus on filling out the rest of their bench.
GM's bottom line
"The decisions aren't made in a vacuum," Rizzo said. "We certainly have our plans for 2017 and beyond. Again, [the Eaton trade] gives us flexibility both positionally and payroll-wise ... [and] puts us in a position to do a lot of things."
Jamal Collier covers the Nationals for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.