Should the Cardinals take a flier on Adam Eaton?


Matt Marton/USA Today Sports

Dan Buffa, Special to the Jewish Light

Whenever an outfielder, or basically any hitter with a pulse, becomes available, the masses wonder about his worth to their team. For Cardinal Nation, the ruminating goes on a lot longer than most ball clubs these days. Outfielder Adam Eaton, a player the St. Louis Cardinals once pursued, was released by the Chicago White Sox today. Manager Tony La Russa praised the veteran, telling the media it wasn’t right for him to sit on the bench for too much longer.

Could it possibly aid the Cards-who need a decent bat like I need one of my mom’s patented pastrami sandwiches-right now?

Here’s the thing. While they have won two of three over the mighty Giants and six of their last eleven, the Cardinals are still painfully inconsistent and undermanned at the moment–a concern that screams loudly at the plate. The Chicago Cubs may have taken a true nosedive out of contention, but the Milwaukee Brewers remain strong enough to rule and the pesky, hard-hitting Cincinnati Reds are hanging around… and above the Cardinals in the division.

St. Louis is still missing their two best pitchers, both lethal in different capacities. However, Jack Flaherty and Jordan Hicks aren’t known for their hitting. Sadly, Miles Mikolas isn’t any closer to returning. However, the Cards’ main issue still revolves around their weak hitting.


Whether it’s hitting coach Jeff Albert’s fault or not, the bats aren’t doing their job 90% of the time. Paul Goldschmidt had a fine June, but fans still await that true blast-off moment for the first baseman making the big bucks. Speaking of big bucks, Nolan Arenado is putting together a very good-if not M.V.P. type-season, but he needs help elsewhere. Tyler O’Neill is enjoying a true breakout season but can’t stay off the Injured List. Someone pulled the batteries out of Paul DeJong a long time ago, and nobody can find them. Harrison Bader is good in flashes, but overall a defensive-plus player. Yadier Molina has always carried a streaky stroke, yet not one that can hold an offense up for more than a couple of weeks. Dylan Carlson’s bat is still chasing his glovework in the field in the ability department, something that should change in the next year or so.

A guy like Eaton should be at least considered. His White Sox reunion (the place where he established himself) didn’t go as well as planned. Remember when he was part of a giant trade between the Sox and the Washington Nationals? Times have changed quite a lot since then. For one, he could never stay healthy. In four seasons for the Nats, Eaton only played over 100 games in a season once. He wasn’t the guy who could put up double-digit totals in doubles, triples, and home runs–along with a solid walk total and some stolen bases. A lefty-lefty with ability to take the ball to all fields, Eaton was never elite, but a quality ballplayer.

That consistency, however, left him a long time ago. These days, the pop and hitting ability are vanishing. No one should have 2020 held solely against them, but they sucked up Eaton’s ability to get on base and hit for average. He hit .201 this year and .226 last year; his career mark is .278. The .285 and .298 OBP pale in comparison to his .356 career mark. With the exception of a great 2016 season in the field, Eaton is barely above average for his career via Fangraphs.

So, what does he offer this team? He shouldn’t take at-bats away from Carlson or O’Neill, and does he really offer more than Bader at this point in his career at age 32? Questions abound, but I don’t see much of an answer in Eaton for St. Louis–even if he didn’t have to be the guy in this city. He could guard against another O’Neill IL stint, and is surely more exciting than Justin Williams or Tommy Edman at this point. Also, just two years ago in the last normal season, Eaton produced a 2.4 fWAR, aka wins above replacement.

But his bat, at its best, was only slightly above average. His line drive rate is also down this year, and he’s not driving the ball to the opposite field anymore. If he’s a guy who can’t do what he used to be able to, getting hurt often won’t make things look any different at Busch Stadium. Eaton did suffer a hamstring injury this season, which slowed him down, and that could flare back up with another team.

Let’s talk about money. Eaton was on a one-year deal with the White Sox worth $8 million before he was designated for assignment today. That means for the next seven days, another team can put a claim in on him, then the two teams would work out a trade and such. If he clears waivers (nobody wants him), then he can go to the Triple-A affiliate or be released to sign elsewhere. If he clears waivers and is released, the Sox pay the rest of his salary and he signs for league minimum elsewhere.

Here’s a reason I wouldn’t mind getting him. He can get on base and draw walks-at least once upon a time. He forms a good left-handed platoon with Bader in center. Bader shreds lefties but can’t solve righties. Eaton has a .794 OPS versus right-handed pitchers. The cost could be very cheap and benefit the team, without any long-term ramifications.

Here’s a reason I wouldn’t sign him. There’s no real PLUS to his work these days. All-around, he’s struggling to get back to where he was and time isn’t exactly jogging. At 32, will he find it? Also, this team needs finishers, not just starters. Eaton isn’t a finisher.

My advice to the Cards: Wait a week. See what happens. If he’s still there after waivers (thus dropping the cost) and the outfield continues to be mediocre or more hurt, revisit. Eaton had some real promise once, but I don’t see how he’d make a real dent–even on this roster.