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Grading the Chicago White Sox on the 2013 MLB Winter Meetings

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Grading the Chicago White Sox on the 2013 MLB Winter Meetings
Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports
Adam Eaton is the newest member of the Chicago White Sox.

After months of what felt like lip service, Chicago White Sox general manager Rick Hahn finally delivered in a big way at the 2013 MLB winter meetings.

Yes, Hahn had struck boldly earlier this offseason when he inked Jose Abreu to a six-year, $68 million contract. And yes, he had also signed Felipe Paulino and Ronald Belisario to one-year contracts.

But he hadn’t made good on his stated objective of making “changes because they’re a step towards our ultimate goal of annual contention and another World Series championship,” via Chuck Garfien of CSN Chicago.

Think about it. Other than Abreu, the moves that Hahn had made leading up to baseball's winter meetings—including signing Tyler Flowers to a one-year, $950,000 contract—did little to address the long-term prospects for the White Sox.

That was, of course, until he acquired Adam Eaton in a three-team trade with the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim on Tuesday.

 

Breaking down Eaton

Here’s how MLB.com’s Scott Merkin sums up what Eaton brings to the table:

The 5-foot-8, 185-pound left-handed hitter seems to be a perfect fit at the top of the White Sox order. Not only does Eaton have the leadoff hitter on-base potential -- with an astounding .450 career OBP over 345 Minor League games -- but he has the mentality to match.

Make no mistake, Eaton can play. In 2012, for example, he compiled a .375/.456/.523 slash line with 47 doubles, 44 stolen bases and 59 walks in the minor leagues. At the major league level that same season, Eaton drew 14 walks, scored 19 runs and amassed a .794 OPS in only 22 games.

It must be noted that some of his minor league statistics should be taken with a grain of salt because they were put up in the Pacific Coast League, which is notorious for inflated offensive statistics. However, he did hit .302 with a .829 OPS over the course of 306 plate appearances for the Diamondbacks' Double-A affiliate at Mobile, Ala., which plays in the pitcher-friendly Southern League.

Another area of concern is Eaton’s defense. ESPN.com’s Doug Padilla noted that he is “not a plus defender when it comes to getting jumps on fly balls, or for his route-taking,” but he “can make up for some deficiencies with his foot speed.”

To back up Padilla’s point, Eaton checks in with a -6.9 UZR (ultimate zone rating) in center field, according to FanGraphs.com.

Eaton is an upgrade over Alejandro De Aza, though, and is not eligible for free agency until after the 2018 season. The importance of having an integral part of the offense in place for that long cannot be overstated.

Going back to the non-waiver trade deadline this past season, Hahn has been quite active. He added Eaton, Abreu and Avisail Garcia to improve a woeful offense, and brought in a new hitting coach in Todd Steverson who cherishes on-base percentage. It’s been quite a run, actually.

 

Opportunities

Positive developments aside, there are at least two things that Hahn did not accomplish over the past several days.

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First,  De Aza and Dayan Viciedo are still on the roster. It would seem that following Eaton’s acquisition, at least one of them should be on the move. To be sure, they are both flawed outfielders, but each has a skill set that makes them quite attractive to other teams, according to Merkin.

Second, the White Sox did not address the catcher position. Yes, Hahn selected Adrian Nieto in the Rule 5 Draft on Thursday, but he will be hard pressed to stay on the 25-man roster this season. It would stand to reason that a starting catcher will be brought in before spring training begins.   

All told, there is still quite a bit of work to be done on the South Side, but Hahn has his club heading in the right direction.

I’ll give Hahn a B- at the winter meetings. When he swings a few more quality moves, however, an A is most certainly in order.

 

All statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted. Contract information is taken from Cots.

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