Adam Eaton signs 5-year, $23.5M deal

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The Chicago White Sox locked up another young core player, signing center fielder Adam Eaton on Friday to a five-year, $23.5 million contract extension.

The deal takes the team's leadoff hitter through the 2019 season, with the White Sox holding options for both 2020 and '21.

The contract is similar to extensions the team reached with starters Chris Sale in March 2013 (five years, $32.5 million) and Jose Quintana in March 2014 (five years, $21 million). All three deals wiped out the players' arbitration years.

"I'm thrilled. It's something we've worked on for a few weeks here and we were able to get done," Eaton said. "I'm happy with it, very happy. It's going to be a relief here on my part to go out and play. All things point to being excited for Chicago White Sox. You look at the guys we have in place for a long time, there's quite a few of us and we're all on board and I'm very happy with hopefully being here the next five to seven years."

Eaton, 26, who was acquired via trade from the Arizona Diamondbacks last offseason, used a strong second half to bat .300 in 2014, with 26 doubles, 10 triples and 76 runs. He was also a finalist for the American League Gold Glove Award in center.

"We have a kid here who we think is going to be an essential part of our success over the next couple of years and is a rare piece in this game, a top-of-the-order player who plays in the middle of the diamond, plays a premium position and brings you plus offense and the ability to get on base and run," general manager Rick Hahn said. "It's an important piece to any successful club and we're happy that we can work out something that extends his stay in a White Sox uniform to potentially seven years."

Eaton will make $850,000 this season, with his salary rising quickly thereafter. He will make $2.75 million in 2016, $4 million in '17, $6 million in '18 and $8.4 million in '19. The 2020 option is worth $9.5 million and the 2021 option would net $10.5 million. There is a $1.5 million buyout if the club declines either option. The deal had been under discussion for the past two weeks.

The contract replaces the $560,000 salary Eaton agreed to earlier this spring as a player who is still under club control. He was scheduled to hit arbitration next year.

Among AL leadoff hitters last season, Eaton was tied for the lead in triples, ranked second in on-base percentage (.362), third in batting average and fourth in runs.

Eaton did have two stints on the disabled list last season, costing him 28 games, but he vowed to keep his aggressive playing style, saying it is what makes him the player he is.

"There's always risk in all of these," Hahn said. "Every time we sat back here in spring training and talked about a long-term deal with one of our guys, we've talked about risk and Adam is no exception. Certainly his style of play and his size lend themselves to injury. That said, I think he has become a smarter player in the last year."

Having core pieces like Sale and Quintana under contract control enabled the White Sox to spend aggressively on the free-agent market this past offseason, and the club's hope is that the Eaton deal continues that mode.

"When you have premium talent such as Chris Sale, Jose Quintana or Adam Eaton on a deal, it gives you some certainty and a great deal of value, you're able to reallocate other resources to address other needs," Hahn said. "Adam specifically said that was important to him. It was one of the many considerations he undertook ... that it puts us in position where it does give us that flexibility and puts us in a position where we can use our funds toward other needs when they arise."

Hahn said that Eaton was also interested in cost certainty for the team, especially if it will help add other key pieces down the road.

"I'm going to be making quite a bit of money, but with that being said, this is the cheaper route for the team," Eaton said. "I think I'm going to play more than that contract is worth, but again, we want to win here and there's money to go elsewhere. The next three, four, five years, if I can be a savings to bring some guys in, that's key for us.

"I want to win, that's first and foremost, and not just once. I think we'll be able to do that."