Acquiring Eaton won’t be cheap for the Nationals. The 28-year-old is coming off a brilliant season in which he batted .284/.362/.428 with 14 homers and 14 stolen bases while delivering arguably the best right-field defense of any player in the Majors. Both Fangraphs and Baseball Reference pegged Eaton’s season at six wins above replacement, and on top of that, he’s controllable through the 2021 season for a total of $38.4MM (although only $19.9MM of that figure is guaranteed, as the remainder comes in the form of club options).
The Nationals are known to be in the market for a center fielder and have been connected to Andrew McCutchen on numerous occasions, but Eaton would give them a younger, cheaper and more controllable option to plug into center field. While there are certainly some questions about Eaton’s work in center — the very reason he was in right field was that the ChiSox moved him there after adding what they felt to be a better defensive center fielder — the same questions exist about McCutchen. Eaton would only need to play center for one year in D.C., as Jayson Werth is a free agent next winter, creating a corner vacancy for Eaton to slide into.
Acquiring Eaton would definitively push rising star Trea Turner back to his natural position of shortstop, and it would also give a right-leaning Nationals lineup a left-handed bat to hit atop the order and provide some balance.
As for the White Sox, an Eaton trade would likely return at least one MLB-ready component to offset some of the lost value from the departure of their best position player. It’d also further signal that a full-scale rebuild is in effect on the South Side of Chicago.