Phillies make it official, sign Eaton
Right-hander, 29, inks three-year, $24.5 millon contract
PHILADELPHIA -- Separating the words preliminary and agreement, the Phillies on Thursday officially announced the signing of right-hander Adam Eaton to a three-year, $24.5 million contract, thus completing their projected 2007 starting rotation.Eaton is the third offseason signing for Philadelphia, which retained Jamie Moyer and added infielder Wes Helms with a two-year, $5.45 million deal. The official announcement came later than expected because the pitcher had to pass a physical, which was held on Wednesday, and snow in Seattle delayed his flight. Eaton was already heading back home to attend to some personal business, and wasn't available to comment. Details and red tape aside, the Phillies landed a pitcher they ranked high on the list of free agents, especially considering that Jason Schmidt and Barry Zito expressed very little interest in coming to Philadelphia. Eaton replaces Randy Wolf, who joined the Dodgers on Tuesday, and fills out a starting rotation that includes Brett Myers, Cole Hamels, Jon Lieber and Moyer. He'll likely slide in somewhere from three to five in the order, behind Lieber and ahead of Moyer, producing a more veteran rotation than what began the 2006 season. That quintet contained Gavin Floyd and Ryan Madson, who at the time had made a combined nine big-league starts. How does the Phillies' rotation stack up against those of the Mets, Braves and Marlins? "I really don't look at other teams in the division or the league," general manager Pat Gillick said. "I know this -- we've probably got a better starting rotation than we had at the beginning of 2006 season." In a starting pitcher's market seemingly waiting to see the spoils given to Japanese right-hander Daisuke Matsuzaka by the Red Sox, Eaton set the bar for the second tier of pitchers, much like Kris Benson did two years ago with the Mets. Though unidentified baseball executives are reportedly scratching their heads over Eaton's contract -- largely because of his various injuries over the past two seasons -- the Phillies are hoping for a healthy return. The organization is familiar with Eaton, having drafted him out of Snohomish (Wash.) High School as the 11th overall pick in the 1996 First-Year Player Draft.
"When he was a kid, we thought he had a chance to be an upper-part-of-the-rotation starter," said Mike Arbuckle, assistant general manager, scouting and player development. "When we saw him in high school, we liked the fact that he could field his position, swing the bat and could pitch. We felt he was a very good competitor. We liked everything about him at the time."Philadelphia oversaw Eaton's development for three years until 1999, when he was part of a trade that landed Andy Ashby from the Padres. On May 30, 2000, Eaton made his Major League debut against the Brewers and has been in the big leagues since. Unfortunately for the 29-year-old, injuries have followed him throughout his career, and 2006 was no exception. A finger injury that required surgery limited him to 65 innings with Texas, who had acquired him the previous winter. Eaton's best statistical season came in 2003, when he posted a 4.08 ERA in 183 innings, allowing 173 hits and 68 walks. For his career, he's 54-45 with a 4.40 ERA in parts of seven seasons with San Diego and Texas. In addition to Phillies personnel Eaton knew during his time in the Minor Leagues, he may also recognize Shane Victorino, Clay Condrey and Justin Germano, who are now with the Phillies but had cups of coffee with San Diego in 2003 and 2004. Eaton was also teammates in Texas with former Phillies Kevin Millwood, Vicente Padilla and Robinson Tejeda. Arbuckle always kept his eye on his one-time draft pick, and almost considered him on loan to those other clubs. "Hopefully, he'll come back and do for us what we hoped he'd do when we drafted him all those years ago," he said.
With Eaton completing the rotation, Gillick's focus shifts to the bullpen. Gillick wouldn't comment on the strange situation involving Joe Borowski, in which the Phillies backed away from an agreement with the reliever because of concerns over his right shoulder."I really can't comment," Gillick said. "Medical situations are rather tricky to talk about. There's so many federal laws on what you can and can't do, it really is something we just can't discuss." There has been speculation that the Phillies might still bring in Borowski with an incentive-laden deal, though Gillick wouldn't elaborate. He did say that the team hadn't made an offer to David Weathers, who had been considered a backup plan. "We'll have to wait and see what transpires," Gillick said. "We're out there fishing, trying to acquire what we need. We've got some proposals out there." After losing out on Alfonso Soriano and Gary Sheffield, and not being interested in Moises Alou and Carlos Lee, Gillick conceded that protection for Ryan Howard might be more difficult to acquire than the needed bullpen piece. "I would say it's probably more likely that we'll fill our bullpen before we fill our hitter need," he said. "It might be a situation where we don't really [find] another hitter."
Ken Mandel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.