Eaton, Abreu, Garcia make White Sox more exciting
BY DARYL VAN SCHOUWEN Staff Reporter December 11, 2013 11:15PM
Updated: December 11, 2013 11:41PM
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — With two three-way trades and one $68 million free-agent signing, the White Sox should have three important long-term pieces of their every-day lineup firmly in place for years to come.
Big and fast right fielder Avisail Garcia, 22, came at the trade deadline in July in the Jake Peavy deal. Cuban slugging first baseman Jose Abreu, 26, was signed for six years and $68 million in November. And on Tuesday, 25-year-old center fielder and leadoff man Adam Eaton was acquired from the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Turning over one-third of the lineup should make watching the Sox easier on the eyes than the Sad Sox Nine of 2013. The fresh, young trio includes a middle-of-the-order power hitter (Abreu), a potential five-tool star (Garcia) and a leadoff hitter with a high on-base minor-league history and speed (Eaton). Like 24-year-old ace lefty Chris Sale, they’re all under contract control for several years.
“Someone said all we have to do is [add another three quality players] in the next six months and six months after that, and we’ll be in great shape,’’ general manager Rick Hahn said. “That was only partially tongue in cheek — we don’t have that much work to do, but we certainly have some other priorities we hope to hit.’’
Catching, third base and left-handed relief are three that come to mind. The Rule 5 draft Thursday morning, the last order of business at the winter meetings, could be tapped for what Hahn called complementary or short-term solutions.
With the Eaton trade for pitcher Hector Santiago and the signing of right-handed starter Felipe Paulino, the Sox are being congratulated as one of the winners at the meetings.
“We’ve made progress, but we’re not finished,’’ Hahn said. “We’ve balanced out the lineup some, we’ve brought some youth and athleticism, improved our defense and baserunning and ability to get on base. . . . It’s a process, and it’s going to take some time. But we’ve added three pieces we feel good about.’’
Hahn said the process doesn’t end until “there is a parade. Then we’ll get going on the next one.’’
At the very least, it’s a start to making things right.
“We’re a work in progress; we know that,’’ Hahn said.
“But we’ve added just on the position-player side of things in Eaton, Abreu and Garcia, three young core players who will help us in different ways and help us round out our offense and defense in different ways for at least the next five seasons.’’
Eaton, the MVP of the Pacific Coast League (Class AAA) in 2012, will bring energy with a hard-nosed style that will endear him to fans if he performs well. The Sox, as a whole, did not make pitchers work too hard, but Eaton will set a new tone for that at the top of the lineup.
“Get on base at all costs,’’ he said Wednesday. “I don’t care if I get hit in the head, hit in the ankle. See 10 or 12 pitches, as many as I need to get on base.’’
Eaton said fans relate to his 5-8 frame. He makes pitchers work and, like Garcia, he runs out every ground ball at full speed. There’s nothing wrong with that.
“I think of myself as a Lenny Dykstra-Kenny Lofton mix, a scrappy dirtbag who gets after it day in and day out,’’ Eaton said.
Now that he’s over the shock of the trade, Eaton is eagerly awaiting his fresh start.
“It’s a new beginning, new club, new city,’’ he said. “I’m really looking forward to it.’’
It would be nice to look forward to watching the Sox again, and they might be worth a look.