As the Chicago White Sox continue their rebuild this season, general manager Rick Hahn is reaping the rewards of trading outfielder Adam Eaton from way back in December of 2016. The day following the official beginning of rebuild with the trade of ace pitcher Chris Sale for Yoan Moncada and Michael Kopech, Hahn acquired three of the Washington Nationals top pitching prospects for Adam Eaton. The prospects were Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, and Dane Dunning, all of whom have impressed and improved with their time with White Sox showing the true one-sidedness of the trade.
When the trade took place, many pundits felt that the Nationals gave up way too much for Eaton based off of his value. Eaton had performed well as a leadoff hitter with the White Sox during his career and was coming off a 2016 season in which he nearly won a Gold Glove for his improved defense. The Nationals had been looking to acquire an impact outfielder and were even more hard set once a trade with the Pittsburgh Pirates had fallen through for former MVP Andrew McCutchen.
At the 2016 winter meetings, it appeared that Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo was looking to make a deal at all cost, and Hahn was the beneficiary.
Before the Sale trade, the two teams most rumored to acquire Sale were the Boston Red Sox and Nationals, many believe that it was the package the White Sox received for Eaton was initially intended for Sale plus one of the Nationals top positional player prospects. Both Giolito and Lopez started their 2017 seasons in Triple-A Charlotte before being called up to the majors for the last few months of the season. Dunning spent his entire season in Single-A Winston-Salem.
Giolito and Lopez have performed well in their brief time with the White Sox. Between the two, they have recorded nine starts in which they gave up three earned runs or fewer this season. Lopez has been extremely impressive recording three quality starts so far especially considering that many scouts had him projected as a reliever rather than a starter. Giolito has struggled at times this season, but in his last two has been consistent limiting his opponents to just two walks and five or fewer hits.
Dunning has performed outstanding in the White Sox farm system this year as he is the first of the team’s major prospects to be promoted being called up to Double-A Birmingham on April 26th. Since the promotion, Dunning has recorded back to back quality starts limited his opponents to three runs and walks or less while pitching six innings. On Wednesday night, Dunning struck out five and allowed no walks.
If all three pitchers end up being quality starters for the White Sox pitching rotation in the future, the trade will be looked at as one of the worst historically on Rizzo’s end. Lopez and Giolito both still have the ability to develop into top of the rotation starters and Dunning is showing the signs that he could also do the same.
This past offseason, a several trades took place involving top level outfielders which provides depth and perspective to the Eaton trade. All-star and Gold Glove outfielders Marcell Ozuna, Christian Yelich, and McCutchen were traded in the offseason, and none of the trades garnered the return value that Eaton’s did. The Yelich trade involving the Marlins and Milwaukee Brewers came the closest as the Brewers parted ways with their best prospect in Lewis Brinson.
At the time of the Eaton trade, Giolito was viewed as the Nationals’ top pitching prospect with Lopez ranking third. Even more, both were seen as the best pitching prospects in all of baseball as both were ranked in the top 50 of MLB’s Top 100 list. Unfortunately for the Nationals, Eaton tore his ACL early in the 2017 season missing the rest of the season and this year has been sidelined since April 8th due to an ankle injury.
During the White Sox rebuild, many of the team’s veterans were traded away from prospects with the Sale for Moncada trade being deemed the biggest due to Moncada’s ranking as the best prospect in baseball. As time goes on, the trade involving Giolitio, Lopez, and Dunning will surpass that due to the value placed on quality starting pitching. Many teams are lucky to get an average starting pitcher in a trade, but Hahn has the possibility to have acquired three top starters for a small cost in Eaton.