Lucas Giolito picked up his first ever complete game shutout Thursday night as the White Sox beat the Astros 4-0 in Houston. Giolito has been the White Sox best pitcher this season as the team has played better more recently. He was acquired in the Adam Eaton trade which has been discussed this week due to Eaton’s verbal argument with former White Sox Todd Frazier.
The Eaton trade may now be one of the more lopsided trades in recent memory.
Current Sox starters Reynaldo Lopez, Lucas Giolito, and minor league starter Dane Dunning were acquired on December 7th, 2016 by the White Sox from the Nationals in exchange for Eaton. He was one of the few veterans of value that the White Sox could trade. The Nationals were further enticed because of the quality of the team friendly contract given their high payroll.
Nationals’ general manager Mike Rizzo was looking to add a top-tier outfielder following the team missing out on trading for Andrew McCutchen. Eaton was coming off a 2016 season where he had proven himself a reliable lead-off hitter and was a finalist for a Gold Glove.
When the trade was made, many pundits believed Rizzo had given up way too much as Giolito was the number one pitching prospect in baseball at the time. The deal also included the team’s third overall prospect in Lopez and a promising arm in Dunning.
The goal for the Nationals adding Eaton was to improve their outfield defense and have another bat ahead of their sluggers in Bryce Harper, Daniel Murphy, and Jason Werth. He was supposed to be the final piece needed to help the Nationals get beyond the National League Divisional Series.
So far the deal has not panned out at Eaton has not made a major difference for the Nationals. In his first season with the team in 2017, he played in just 23 games before tearing his ACL and missing the remainder of the season. Last season he performed well posting an on-base percentage of .394 but was hampered by injuries only playing in 93 games. The Nationals’ playoff window has now closed as the team lost Harper and now contends with a more competitive division.
If the White Sox return to a competitive form and win a division with Giolitio, Lopez, and Dunning, the trade will go down as one of the more lopsided in baseball history.
At worst, Giolito and Lopez provide the team with two back of the rotation starters with all three of them still having the potential to be a quality number two starter. That was a lot to have given up just for Eaton, who has been often injured and hasn’t shown the value to warrant that trade.
Although both struggled in their first full season in the majors last year, Giolito and Lopez have rebounded this season as they have been the only two consistent starting pitchers for the White Sox. In their last six combined starts, both have only allowed seven earned runs. Furthermore, both have saved the bullpen of taxing innings as both have pitched six or more innings including Giolito who has thrown back to back complete games, with the first being five innings due to rain.
Both have improved on what their biggest struggles were last season as Giolito has reduced his walks as he is averaging just two walks in five May starts. He dominated one of the league’s best lineups in the Astros as he struck out nine, walked four, and allowed just four hits.
Lopez’s biggest struggle in 2017 was making batters miss. In his first 10 starts in 2018, he only had 42 strikeouts compared to 54 through 10 starts this season. Lopez has been recorded at least one strikeout in his 10 starts and had six straight starts of five strikeouts or more.
A rash of injuries to a good portion of the White Sox prospects have delayed the rebuild, but Giolito and Lopez have proven themselves as reliable starters. Dunning is recovering from Tommy John surgery, but could still be a starter or a reliable reliever if he fully recovers.
Fans may question whether the White Sox made the right decision trading away Chris Sale and Jose Quintana, but no one can question what the team got in return for Adam Eaton.