NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. -- After entering the Winter Meetings in position to make an impact move, the Nationals pulled off a trade on Wednesday evening to acquire outfielder Adam Eaton from the White Sox.Eaton, who turned 28 on Tuesday, comes with an affordable and long-term contract as he is under team control through 2021, which includes two team options. He hit .284/.362/.428 in 2016 and posted a 6.2 WAR, according to Baseball-Reference.com, while playing primarily right field. He has quietly been one of the best outfielders in baseball during the past three years, posting a WAR of 3.9 in '15 and 5.2 in '14.
In order to acquire Eaton, however, the Nationals unloaded three of their top prospects, as Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez and Dane Dunning -- the club's Nos. 1, 3 and 6 prospects as rated by MLBPipeline.com -- were sent to the White Sox. Giolito is baseball's No. 3 overall prospect and Lopez comes in at No. 38. General manager Mike Rizzo has normally been reluctant to trade his top Minor Leaguers, so this marks his most aggressive unloading of Minor League talent in his Nationals tenure."I always said it's not how many players you trade away, it's who you trade away," Rizzo said. "To acquire a player with this skill set that has the years of control and favorable contract that he has, it takes good players in return. ... We traded from a position of depth. We felt we have great depth in our starting pitching."The trade will allow Trea Turner to return to his natural position at shortstop while Eaton almost certainly takes over in center field. Eaton was an American League Gold Glove Award finalist in right field this season, and his 22 Defensive Runs Saved was second most in the Majors at his position. However, the Nationals have said they prefer to keep Bryce Harper in right field and would rather not move him to center, so it's likely that Eaton was acquired to play center field.Washington has been searching for an outfielder this offseason and had been interested in Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen. But Rizzo has also had extensive negotiations with the White Sox as the sides attempted to work out a trade initially for left-hander Chris Sale, which likely laid the groundwork for this deal.Jamal Collier / MLB.com