The White Sox announced Monday morning that outfielder Adam Eaton has been granted his unconditional release. He’s now a free agent available to any other team for the prorated league minimum.
Eaton, 32, returned to Chicago on a one-year, $7MM contract this past winter after spending four years with the Nationals and winning a World Series there. He’d struggled through a tough showing during last summer’s shortened 60-game schedule, but Eaton was productive in his other three years with the Nats, hitting .288/.377/.425 in 1133 plate appearances from 2017-19. The Eaton reunion wasn’t the big outfield splash for which ChiSox fans were pining early in the offseason, but it was a reasonable enough roll of the dice at an affordable price considering Eaton’s generally strong track record.
Things (obviously) didn’t go according to plan for either Eaton or the White Sox, however. While he got out to a great start in the season’s first 15 games (.268/.379/.482 in 66 plate appearances), Eaton’s production cratered not long after. From April 20 through the time he was designated for assignment on July 7, he mustered only a .173/.262/.286 batting line with a sky-high (by his standards) 27.4 percent strikeout rate; entering the season, Eaton carried a career 16.8 percent punchout rate and had never fanned in more than 19 percent of his plate appearances during a single season.
While Eaton’s contract contained an $8.5MM club option for the 2022 campaign (which carries a $1MM buyout), that option buyout is now the responsibility of the White Sox, along with the remaining $3.1MM on Eaton’s contract. He’ll again be a free agent at season’s end. A new team that signs him will owe him the prorated league minimum — about $252K from now to season’s end. That sum would be subtracted from the roughly $4.1MM the Sox still owe him.
As for the White Sox, they’ll continue leaning on an outfield mix that currently features Brian Goodwin, Billy Hamilton, Adam Engel, Gavin Sheets, Andrew Vaughn and Leury Garcia. Slugger Eloy Jimenez, however, will have his minor league rehab assignment transferred to Triple-A Charlotte tomorrow, according to the team, further signaling that his return isn’t too far off.
Jimenez began his rehab assignment with Class-A Advanced on Friday and can be on rehab for up to 30 days — or until the Sox deem him ready for a big league return. He’s been out for the entire season so far after rupturing a pectoral tendon during Spring Training and undergoing subsequent surgery. Center fielder Luis Robert, meanwhile, is still expected back later this summer after suffering a Grade 3 strain of his hip flexor at the end of April. The Sox could still pursue outfield upgrades in the 18 days leading up to the trade deadline, but the positive progress of Jimenez can only make them feel a bit better about their internal outlook.