Though last week’s unexpected ankle surgery for Nationals outfielder Adam Eaton created a potential long-term issue for the Nats to navigate, the outfielder explained to reporters today that he believes he can return from the disabled list in six weeks’ time (Twitter link via Mark Zuckerman of MASNsports.com). Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post adds that the cast is coming off Eaton’s ankle today (Twitter links). She also notes that Eaton revealed he dislocated and did additional damage to his ankle last year on the same play in which he suffered a season-ending ACL tear.
A return in six weeks would still allow Eaton to play a bit more than half the season for the Nats, which is no small boost to the team’s aspirations of capturing yet another division title in the NL East. While Eaton has been limited to just 31 games since being acquired by the Nationals in a 2016 Winter Meetings blockbuster with the White Sox, he’s been terrific when healthy enough to take the field. In 140 plate appearances, he’s batted .308/.400/.508 with four homers, 10 doubles and a triple.
The fact that Eaton is set to return in a relatively short window likely rules out any possibility of the Nationals taking to the trade market to pursue an upgrade. Once Eaton is able to return to the Nats, they’ll be able to trot out a strong outfield of Michael A. Taylor, Eaton and Bryce Harper, with Brian Goodwin, Howie Kendrick and Matt Adams on hand as reserve options. For the time being, Taylor should continue to hold down the center field gig, with Adams and Kendrick platooning in left field.
Should additional injuries arise or should Eaton incur a setback in his recovery, the Nats also have top prospect Victor Robles waiting in the wings in Triple-A, though he’s been on the shelf himself due to a hyperextended elbow. Top prospect Juan Soto is rapidly ascending through the minor league ranks, though he only just reached Double-A and isn’t likely to be considered a candidate for a promotion anytime soon, despite his otherworldly production early in the 2018 campaign.