ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick reports the Phillies met with the right-hander’s reps Tuesday at the GM meetings in Naples, Fla. Crasnick says the 29-year-old could command in excess of $8 million annually for a three or four-year deal.
The former first-round pick of the Phillies reinjured the middle finger on his pitching hand during spring training and missed half the season. When he returned, he went 7-4 with a 5.12 ERA in 13 starts.
Since the 1999 trade that sent Eaton to the Padres for Andy Ashby, I’ve added and dropped Eaton about two dozen times from my fantasy team. He is no stranger to injury. In July of 2001, he underwent Tommy John surgery and missed all but the last few weeks of 2002 – almost the same exact timetable as Randy Wolf down to the day and month. For the next three seasons, he tried to fill the role of a prototypical No. 2 starter, but probably came in slightly short of that. He started having trouble with his middle finger halfway through 2005. Last winter, he was traded to Texas along with Akinori Otsuka for Chris Young, Adrian Gonzalez and Terrmel Sledge.
Spending most of his career in a pitchers’ park, he’s 54-45 with a 4.40 ERA over his seven-year career.
I’m more than just a little intrigued by Eaton. I can see why Gillick has taken an interest. It’s a safe assessment that Gillick prefers athletes. He’s a good fielder and can do something no other Phillies pitcher can do: hit. He’s a lifetime .191 hitter.
But for more traditional reasons, the athletic 6-2 right-hander would appeal to someone from the old school. Scouts like that he has four good pitches and can keep the ball on the ground.
I like that he’s a free agent with actual upside, something you don’t often see. There seems to be a general belief that Eaton has yet to hit full stride. If the Phillies are going to resort to free agency, I’d rather see them take a chance on someone like Eaton, age 29, than many of the other choices. He is believed to be among that second-third tier of free agent pitchers, under guys like Ted Lilly, Vicente Padilla and Jeff Suppan. I could see him winning more games than all of them, and would also provide the better long-term solution.