Eaton, White Sox reunite on 1-year deal

December 10th, 2020

CHICAGO -- 's return to the White Sox was officially announced Thursday, with the right fielder signing a one-year, $7 million deal with an $8.5 million club option and a $1 million buyout for 2022.

Eaton, who played for the White Sox from 2014-16, and White Sox general manager Rick Hahn spoke on a Zoom call Thursday.

"It's tough to describe. I think it's kind of going full circle. A little different," said Eaton on Tuesday night while driving to Chicago with his wife and two sons to complete the deal. "You are traded for the main pieces that are now making the White Sox tick. To be able to come back after winning a World Series and hopefully bringing some success to Chicago, it's going to be cool. It's a unique position."

"We certainly think a healthy productive Adam Eaton is an everyday right fielder for us at the very least," added Hahn in the Zoom call. "In the end, we want to provide [manager] Tony [La Russa] with as many quality options as possible."

Right-handed starter Lance Lynn was acquired in a trade with the Rangers for right-hander Dane Dunning and Minor League southpaw Avery Weems, which was announced Tuesday, making Eaton the second significant virtual Winter Meetings addition made by a White Sox team pushing toward a championship goal as early as 2021. Dunning was part of the three-player return from the Nationals when Chicago traded Eaton at the 2016 Winter Meetings, along with now staff ace Lucas Giolito and right-hander Reynaldo López, allowing Chicago to start its rebuild.

That White Sox dismantling was fairly obvious to Eaton at the time, with the club building up its young core toward sustained success and allowing the now 32-year-old to win the 2019 World Series title with the Nationals. Eaton hit .279 with 15 home runs, 49 RBIs, 25 doubles and 15 stolen bases in that season, with the Nationals fighting their way back from a 19-31 start.

Eaton slashed .226/.285/.384 this year, with his season ending on Sept. 16 after his left index finger was fractured on a bunt attempt. The Nationals declined his $10.5 million club option for 2021, which was part of his five-year, $23.5 million extension with club options for '20 and '21 agreed upon with the White Sox on March 20, 2015. The White Sox contacted Eaton on that same day he became a free agent, per the veteran.

"My family and I are happy with our decision to come back to Chicago," Eaton said. "We are very familiar with the city. We like the city and love the people in the White Sox organization, so we are thrilled with it.

"It was the situation the White Sox were in. How familiar I was with the organization, the team. They have a great team with a lot of big pieces in place, good coaching staff and the division is kind of there for the taking and on top of that you have the city of Chicago to live in."

During his time with the White Sox, Eaton produced a slash line of .290/.362/.422 with 29 homers, 28 triples, 83 doubles and 47 stolen bases. The 5-foot-9, 176-pound left-handed hitter brings an edge to the team, an edge Hahn pointed to a few times Thursday, but an edge that rubbed teammates wrong at times during his first White Sox tenure. That first run also ended four years ago, and Eaton understandably has learned a great deal during his stint in Washington.

"Everybody changes the older they get, the more experience they have," Eaton said. "Every day kind of molds you in the big leagues hopefully for the better, and one thing that I've learned through four years is bedside manner, in a sense, with the young guys and how to portray what you are trying to get across, how to try to be successful.

"But, also, now I'm a father of two. You show a little more patience on and off the field. It's a lot of growing I've done over there. I'm excited to bring back what I've learned and hopefully use it for the betterment of the club in any way, shape or form."

First baseman José Abreu, who is the 2020 American League Most Valuable Player and Hank Aaron Award winner, shortstop Tim Anderson and utility player Leury García are the only Major League players remaining from Eaton's 2016 season with the White Sox. He comes in as a component for success, not so much a featured player. And he simply wants the team to succeed.

"I want to win a championship in Chicago, and I think we have the pieces to do it," Eaton said. "I feel like I'm signing myself up for it, so I'm excited about it. They have a good team, and I'm just hoping to complement it any way I can."

"We wanted to improve our production against right-handed pitchers, and we wanted to not compromise defense in the process of doing that," said Hahn of Eaton, who has a career .801 OPS against right-handers. "Adam addresses both of those needs and also does so in a way that allows us to continue to round out our other needs, fill our other needs on this roster."