When the Chicago White Sox parted ways with outfielder Nomar Mazara following the 2020 season, they had an opportunity to make a serious upgrade to the right field position and attempted to do just that by signing veteran Adam Eaton.
Eaton, who had won a World Series title with the Washington Nationals in 2019, signed a one-year deal worth $8 million to return to the South Side of Chicago. Many fans were skeptical of the reunion, but others thought that Eaton was just what the team needed: another veteran presence with postseason experience.
The beginning of the season was going well for the 32-year-old corner outfielder. He was showing great offensive ability with reliable defense. Although the season was young at the time, Eaton was leading the club in home runs. At that point, the one-year deal seemed like a steal.
But as the season has worn on, Eaton has endured injury issues and struggled mightily at the dish, which is making fans question the signing as his poor play has easily outweighed his sprinkle of success and the numbers are there to prove it.
When looking at Eaton's last 25 games (19 starts), the numbers are quite disturbing. Eaton is batting .164 (11-for-67) with a pair of homers and seven knocked in over that stretch. He's also drawn ten walks and struck out 21 times with an on-base percentage of .291. Throughout the season, his batting average has fluctuated around the low-to-mid .200s, but this stretch has caused that number to sit at .195 for the time being as he tries to get healthy.
The left-handed bat landed on the ten-day injured list on June 27 with a strained right hamstring, adding to the team's slew of hamstring issues. Some speculated that his struggles stemmed from him trying to battle through that injury. Manager Tony La Russa explained that Eaton tried to fight through it, but it was time to hit the injured list and get healthy.
Not knowing how long it was actually affecting him, it's hard to say whether or not the nagging injury was causing a downtick in his performance. Regardless, the second Eaton hits the field again will be extremely important not just for him, but for the White Sox front office as well.
The MLB trade deadline is 40 days away from now and the White Sox have quite the situation at hand. On top of two big bats in Eloy Jimenez and Luis Robert being sidelined, Nick Madrigal is done for the year and their depth pieces have fallen victim to injury as well.
For Eaton, his sample size hasn't proven he's worth any sort of extension or re-signing discussions, so if he would rather not test the open market, he's going to need to find another gear when he returns. Eaton will have a little over a calendar month to show his worth before the deadline, which is important because his performance may determine how aggressive the White Sox are at finding outfield help. It could also play a role in dictating whether or not Eaton is involved in those trade talks.
The White Sox upcoming schedule features a two-game set against the Pittsburgh Pirates, a three-game series against the Seattle Mariners at home, and the Minnesota Twins visiting the South Side for four contests. During these games and beyond, a microscope will be on the offense as the front office continues to carefully examine true needs throughout the lineup.
If Adam Eaton can come back healthy and ready to provide some relief, it would take a lot of pressure off Rick Hahn and company. If his trend of subpar production continues, he'll likely find himself in a new city in the future even if the White Sox utilize him for the rest of 2021.