Eaton, 32, was designated for assignment after slashing .201/.298/.344 with eight doubles, two triples, five home runs, 28 RBIs and 33 runs scored over 58 games. The left-handed-hitting outfielder agreed to a one-year, $8 million free agent deal during the offseason with an $8.5 club option and a $1 million buyout for 2022, but his playing time was likely to dwindle after he batted .173 with two home runs and 14 RBIs since April 20.
Moving Eaton gave younger players such as Gavin Sheets a chance, and with Eloy Jiménez and Luis Robert working their way back from injury, Eaton’s spot may have soon been in question anyway. The move also gives Eaton a chance for more playing time somewhere else.
“Conversations have been going on with [executive vice president] Kenny [Williams], [general manager] Rick [Hahn], [assistant general manager] Jeremy [Haber] and our coaching staff and player development,” said White Sox manager Tony La Russa, who called the Eaton move a very difficult organizational decision. “But, there are certain things that have happened that you couldn’t predict.
“Injuries, you knew some would happen, there have been a lot of opportunities to play and you have infielders playing the outfield like they’re above average, to me. You pick up a guy like [Brian] Goodwin, he comes and contributes. Billy [Hamilton]. It’s just gotten crowded. And we’ve got guys coming. Playing time was going to get, I think, a detriment to who Adam is. Hopefully something good happens.”
Wednesday’s move also involved eating the remainder of Eaton’s salary owed, which shows the organization’s further commitment to winning. They absorbed the cost to put forth the best roster possible in a quest for a 2021 World Series title.
“It says a lot,” La Russa said. “That’s why our players know the commitment to us getting as far as we can go.
“They’ve already proven it, signing Liam [Hendriks] and making the trade for [Lance] Lynn. They’ve been doing it consistently. It’s painful, but you’ve got a shot and they are giving us our best shot.”
Engel was in Wednesday’s starting lineup and figures to start twice this weekend in Baltimore. The 29-year-old was placed on the injured list on June 22 for the second time this season with a strained right hamstring and is batting .241 with three home runs, four RBIs and five runs scored over 10 games in 2021.
“I feel good,” Engel said. “I’ve been feeling pretty good for a little while now. I’ve been able to build back up and strengthen. The speed numbers are all back, so I’m ready to get going.”
Jiménez to DH?
Playing time at designated hitter will be in the future for Jiménez, who continues working his way back from surgery to repair a ruptured left pectoral tendon and should soon depart on a Minor League rehab assignment.
“There’s legitimate reasons to think of DHing him a lot,” said La Russa of Jiménez. “That would be one way to get his bat in and not have to worry so much about his legs. I think the depth we have now in the outfield allows us to think about Eloy maybe getting a lot of swings as a DH.”
Jiménez injured himself near the end of Spring Training trying to track down a home run during Cactus League action against the A’s. Andrew Vaughn, who had three games of experience in left field during Spring Training, has done a solid job defensively at that spot after being moved from first base.