People tend to form an opinion and then they try to interpret facts to match their opinions. In fact, there is very little objective analysis when it comes to opinions on players who play on team we root for. When it comes to the Adam Eaton trade words like ‘overpaid’, ‘fleeced’ etc are commonly used so I decided to look at a straight comparison. In 2017 and 2018, Eaton has generated 1.8 WAR, while two of the players he was traded for, Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez, combined have amounted to 2.0 WAR together over these 2 years. It could be that in 10 years when the trade is looked at by objective analysts that it’ll look worse from a Nats perspective, but I think the best that can be said about this trade now is that the jury hasn’t even started deliberating.
I think we can all agree that Adam Eaton is a very good player. In the 3 years before the trade Eaton was at 3.7, 3.8 and 5.8 WAR, he is an OBP machine and a terrific table setter. Eaton has been robbed of 1.5 years of health in his Nats tenure, so the value has yet to be realized. What we are seeing recently is a player slowly returning to form with steady improvement in all aspects of his game. There is no doubt that the Nats are a better team when Eaton starts than when he doesn’t.
So, what about 2019? It’s back to the Bryce Harper conundrum. If Harp stays then we could be looking at an outfield of Soto, Harper and Eaton, like what we have seen over the past couple of months. It’s not ideal from several points of view. They are all left-handed hitters and as a unit they are a poor defensive bunch, should we entertain trading Eaton? Maybe but the return will be disappointing based on injuries and the fact that Adam Eaton will soon hit the big 30 — not a lot of great options.
If Harper signs elsewhere, you can field an outfield of Soto, Robles and Eaton; much better defensively and not all left-handed. Of course, this takes away 35 home runs and 100 RBI’s and that’s not trivial, but Harper brings a 3.3 WAR to the table, let’s say he ends up at 3.6 or 3.7 or even 4; can Robles be a 4 WAR player? I think so. It also makes the team more athletic, less dependent on the long ball and more importantly in my opinion it removes the constant drama associated with Bryce Harper and maybe just maybe it allows the manager to run a fair clubhouse, and of course the payroll becomes more flexible . It’s easy to see where I stand.
From a contract perspective Eaton will still earn under $5 mil in 2019 and there are 2 team options after that so his value is unquestionable to the Nats if not obvious to trading partners.