That three-team trade in December between the Chicago White Sox, Los Angeles Angels and Arizona Diamondbacks that was supposed to give each team exactly what it needed is doing the impossible: It’s actually giving each team exactly what it needs.
Trades often purport to have everybody’s best interest in mind, but sooner or later a winner tends to emerge. That still might happen here, but nobody has buyer’s remorse so far.
The main subjects – Adam Eaton to the White Sox, Hector Santiago to the Angels and Mark Trumbo to the Diamondbacks – have settled in nicely with their new clubs. Sure, spring training games are only a week old, but it’s all we have to go on at this point.
Eaton has been every bit the sparkplug the White Sox were looking for at the top of the order. When he doubled to lead off Friday’s game against the Cincinnati Reds, it gave him six hits in his first 10 official at-bats. In his next at-bat, he was hit by a pitch, stole second base and scored on a single. In his third at-bat he walked.
Eaton promised to wreak havoc on opponents, and so far that is exactly what he has done. He has backed up his confident demeanor with the kind of determined play the White Sox were sorely missing last season.
“Any way, shape or form,” Eaton said, spitting it out like a lifelong mantra.
The 5-foot-8, 185-pounder knows that his keys to success will be his ability to do all the little things.
“Get on first, just put pressure on guys,” Eaton said. “If you saw me on second base, the pitcher is worried about me stealing third with nobody out. In my mind, if he’s thinking about me he’s going to hang something to the hitter. It doesn’t happen every time, but if I can get into the pitcher’s head that, ‘Hey, he might steal first base, maybe I might throw more heaters.’ The catcher is thinking that. Maybe the game speeds up quicker.”
At that instant, Eaton was reminded again of his mantra.
“Any way shape or form,” he repeated.
The Angels have been equally satisfied with Santiago, who was expendable because the White Sox were reluctant to carry four left-handers into the upcoming season. It made sense that the White Sox dangled Santiago, since Chris Sale is the staff ace, Jose Quintana continues to get better while being affordable and John Danks has a contract that wasn’t attractive to trade suitors.
“Hector, from the start you could really see his talent,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. “A couple of things really intrigued me. This kid, for a little guy, throws the ball very hard. And he’s got a true screwball, which you don’t see very often.”
Scioscia used to catch Fernando Valenzuela in his playing days, so he knows all about a screwball. For the record, as good as Santiago’s screwball is, it isn’t quite Valenzuela good.
In his first two Cactus League starts with the Angels, Santiago has been nothing short of spectacular. He gave up one hit while striking out five in four innings against the Chicago Cubs on Friday, and that came after his first outing when he gave up just one hit and an unearned run in 2 2/3 innings.
Trumbo has proven his worth to the Diamondbacks with six hits in his first 16 at-bats, including two doubles, a home run and three runs scored.
The White Sox might have taken the biggest gamble in the deal since they traded a starter who not only has a full season in a rotation under his belt but hasn’t even hit his arbitration years. The determined play of Eaton thus far, though, has it looking like less of a gamble every day.
“As advertised,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said when asked about Eaton’s play. “A high energy guy who is willing to fight through an at-bat, run well, play good defense and bring a little energy to this lineup.”