LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Piece by piece the White Sox new direction continues to reveal itself this offseason.
In an attempt to shed the stink of last season’s 99-loss campaign, White Sox general manager Rick Hahn continued a roster overhaul five months in the making on Tuesday when he acquired center fielder Adam Eaton from the Arizona Diamondbacks. The White Sox believe they have found in Eaton, 24, yet another core player, one who can bring fiery talent to the top of the lineup for years to come.
Eaton was acquired from the Arizona Diamondbacks in exchange for Hector Santiago, who was traded to the Los Angeles Angels as part of a three team-deal that brought Mark Trumbo to the desert. Eaton joins Avisail Garcia and Jose Abreu as key components whom have been brought in since July 30.
“We feel we have 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,” Hahn said. “We know that this is a work in progress, but we feel pretty good about the initial steps getting us to where we need to be.”
Aside from pitching, the White Sox were in need of help in just about every aspect of the game. They needed to improve upon a .302 on-base percentage, the lowest total the franchise has produced since the pitcher’s mound was lowered in 1969. They hope to also clean up a defense that committed the second-most errors in the American League. And among other things, the White Sox wanted to add a little oomph in the clubhouse.
They believe Eaton, who has compiled a .348/.450/.501 slash line in 1,560 minor-league plate appearances, can remedy all three areas.
“This is a dirt bag baseball player,” Hahn said. “This is a guy who has been described to me (by Kevin Towers) with words I can’t use. But looking to give us an edge that we were lacking a little bit in recent months. He’s a real nice kid for us.”
Both Hahn and manager Robin Ventura were quick to point out how difficult it is to part with Santiago, who has mostly succeeded in whatever role the White Sox gave him the past two seasons. Santiago -- who went 4-9 with a 3.56 ERA in 34 games (23 starts) -- became Ventura’s “Swift Army Knife” in that he could adapt well to almost anything thrown his way.
But the promise Eaton brings as well as an overwhelming need to change the clubhouse culture after 2013 outweighed the cost, Ventura said. Though he didn’t know how it would occur, Ventura likes what Hahn has accomplished since he began to reshape the roster last summer.
“He has responded,” Ventura said. “The way we played, by having the season we had, you have to respond and do things. It’s unfortunate you lose a piece like Hector. But in assessing what you feel you need, that’s what you do. You get an exciting piece like Avi and you sign Abreu and now you have this is and it’s different.”
The White Sox have admired Eaton from afar for the past few years. Eaton, a 19th-round pick in 2010, had been the second most mentioned player in a smattering of recent dialogue between the White Sox and Diamondbacks, the first being Chris Sale, whom Arizona GM Kevin Towers has tried to pry from Hahn’s possession with no success.
“If we would have talked about Mr. Sale I imagine we would have been doing something directly,” Towers said. “But I still can’t get (Hahn) to budge there.”
But Towers didn’t hesitate to move when given the opportunity to acquire Trumbo, who has hit 95 homers the past three seasons. Knowing the Angels wanted pitching and the Sox wanted Eaton, Towers helped facilitate the deal, which was completed in a matter of 24 hours.
Hahn knows he still has more work to do and some could take place in the near future. But for now at least he’s satisfied with what he has already been able to accomplish.
“(Eaton) brings that type of mentality,” Hahn said. “He fights through every at-bat. He leaves everything on the field. He’s got aggressive personality traits that we like and are going to help add to the clubhouse and improve our mix there. Ultimately it’s about getting the right baseball player and the right fit. His intangibles help round him out and make him even more appealing.”