Did White Sox Win Lucas Giolito-Adam Eaton Trade?

The Sox's trade with the Nationals in 2016 looks better every time Giolito pitches.

Bruce Levine
June 11, 2019 - 6:14 pm
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CHICAGO (670 The Score) -- The trade was made on Dec. 7, 2016. The White Sox dealt outfielder Adam Eaton to the Nationals for pitching prospects Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez and Dane Dunning.

Three seasons later, it's worth asking: Is there a clear winner in the deal?

"The idea someone wins or loses doesn't register with me," Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo said as his team visited the White Sox for a two-game series this week. "We gave up some really outstanding talent to the Sox, and we got a player who is filling an important role for us at the top of the batting order and in the outfield. The White Sox scouts did a great job of recommending those pitchers who we valued. This was a good deal for both sides."

The sentiment is certainly growing that the White Sox ended up with the superior haul. That's in large part due to the emergence of the 24-year-old Giolito, who's 9-1 with a 2.28 ERA and 0.92 WHIP. He's a candidate to start for the American League in the All-Star Game in Cleveland on July 9.

Giolito took the diplomatic route when asked who got the better end of the trade.

"Really, I think that is what the Nationals needed at that time," Giolito said. "I had not lived up to expectations with them. I am not a great expert of what is a good deal or bad deal. For me, I am extremely happy with it because of coming over here, I got a new chance and a full year last year where if I was on a different team that would not have been the plan to let me struggle and learn. I would have likely been shipped off to Triple-A. I am happy with the trade for me."

At the time of the trade, Eaton was coming off a 2016 season in which he hit .284 with a .362 on-base percentage and .790 OPS. The Nationals were looking to solidify their club with a high on-base percentage player ahead of star Bryce Harper in the order amid their championship window. 

On the other side, it just so happened that the White Sox were ready to embark on a rebuild and wanted young pitchers with upside.

"That s the nature of the business," White Sox general manager Rick Hahn said. "You want the immediate scorecard and the immediate won or lost. The one thing the Sox fans can take away from it is watching Giolito's progress and thinking back to what people thought of him a year ago at this time. Some of these guys will take time to develop. Rushing to judgment, especially with really talented young players, can come back to bite you."

The Nationals have seen a mixed return with Eaton, who has provided what they expected when healthy but also been sidelined by injuries often. He only played 23 games in 2017 before suffering a season-ending ACL tear and then played 95 games in 2018.

Eaton has been healthy and solid this season, appearing in 64 of Washington's 66 games and hitting .271 with a .356 on-base percentage.

"When you trade players, you have a want and need and the other team does as well," Eaton said. "I root for them to be successful and hope they feel the same way. Both sides' fan bases can dabble in that conversation. Those three pitchers don't worry about winning the trade. They just want to go out and be productive."

As Hahn mentioned, the haul didn't look as promising for the White Sox at this time last year. That's because Giolito posted a 6.13 ERA in 2018, the worst mark among qualifying players in all of MLB. It was reminiscent to his struggles when debuting with the Nationals in 2016, when he posted a 6.75 in six appearances.

Now, Giolito is authoring a turnaround that's nearly unprecedented. He credits the White Sox for standing by him amid his struggles.

"I was a bit relieved when they traded me," Giolito said about his feelings the day of the trade. "I did not make a good first impression with them. A new team, fresh start was really nice for me."

Lopez is also in the White Sox's current rotation. He was solid in posting a 3.91 ERA in 32 starts in 2018, but he has regressed significantly with a 6.21 in 14 starts in 2019. Dunning impressed in the minor leagues before undergoing Tommy John surgery this spring.

In any case, Giolito and the White Sox are pleased with how the trade has played out. On Tuesday morning, Rizzo maintained a similar stance for the Nationals, saying in an interview on the Mully & Haugh Show that he has no regrets or mixed feelings about parting ways with Giolito. 

"I have good friends over there," Giolito said. "I have no ill feelings. The only time I would have a chip on my shoulder would be pitching against them because I would want to dominate. I would have a little extra fire, because you are facing people you really know. I think it worked out for everybody. Facing them would be a lot of fun."

Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine​.