Nationals center fielder Adam Eaton underwent arthroscopic surgery on his injured left ankle today, reports Jack Magruder of FanRag Sports (Twitter link). Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post had reported yesterday that Eaton was visiting a specialist in Wisconsin, and that evaluation revealed a “cartilage problem” that necessitated the operation, per Magruder. Eaton remains in a walking boot, and there is not presently a timetable for his return, per Magruder.
More specifically, Janes adds (via Twitter) that three different doctors were unable to see the source of pain in Eaton’s ankle on either MRIs or bone scans, but the scope revealed a tear in his chondral flap, explaining the pain he’d been experiencing. MASNsports.com’s Dan Kolko tweets that Eaton’s ankle will be immobilized for a week, but a return this season is still “in play.”
The ankle procedure is yet another roadblock in Eaton’s short career with the Nationals since being traded over from the White Sox during the 2016 Winter Meetings. The fleet-footed outfielder missed the majority of the 2017 campaign when he tore the ACL in his left knee early last year, and he played in just eight games with the Nats in 2018 before injuring his ankle on a foot-first slide.
When healthy, Eaton has been nothing short of brilliant for the Nats, hitting .308/.400/.508 in 140 trips to the plate, but he’s unfortunately been able to suit up only 31 times for the organization. Of course, the very reason that the Nationals were willing to part with three highly touted pitching prospects — Reynaldo Lopez, Lucas Giolito and Dane Dunning — in order to acquire Eaton was that he was controlled so affordably and for such a long time. They’ll still have plenty of time to reap value from their investment in the 29-year-old, as he’s locked up through the 2021 season at a total of $34.4MM (with the final $20MM of that sum coming in the form of two club options for 2020-21).
[Related: Washington Nationals depth chart]
With Eaton now sidelined for the foreseeable future, the Nats will continue to utilize Michael A. Taylor in center field, with Bryce Harper in his customary right field. Left field has been manned by a platoon of hot-hitting Matt Adams and Howie Kendrick of late, though the Nats also have Andrew Stevenson and Moises Sierra on the big league roster as outfield options at present, with Rafael Bautista in Triple-A as another 40-man option. Top prospect Victor Robles is also on the 40-man roster, but he’s nursing an elbow injury at the moment, and the Nats don’t want to recall him unless he’s able to receive everyday at-bats.