Eaton and his agent, seeing the huge salaries that pitchers were commanding in the free agent market, especially pitchers of comparable talent and records such as AJ Burnett, were anticipating a windfall payday after the 2006 season.
And they are right.
The Padres, while appreciative of Eaton's talents and recognizing his tremendous potential, were unwilling to commit upwards of $9 million a year in a multi-year deal for a pitcher that has a career record of six games over .500 and that would be based more on what he could become, rather than on what he had delivered in five seasons in San Diego.
And the Padres are right.
The solution? Part company and make the best deal you can.
That trade came through yesterday when the Padres traded Eaton, relief pitcher Aki Otsuka and minor league catcher Billy Killian for Texas right hander Chris Young, first baseman/prospect Adrian Gonzalez and outfielder Terrmel Sludge.
It had been reported that a deal had been proposed of Adam Eaton for catcher Gerald Laird, Lance Nyx and Adrian Gonzalez, but that wouldn't have provided the team with a replacement for Eaton in the rotation.
It appears that in order for the Padres to get Chris Young, a 6-foot-10, former Princeton basketball star, the team added Otsuka into the equation. Otsuka coming off of a down year from his previous year was expendable with Scott Linebrink and the emergence of Clay Hensley.
To even the deal out the Rangers threw in Adrian Gonzalez, a former number one draft pick from Chula Vista. Gonzalez was in among the Rangers top 10 prospects in 2005 and had his best year ever at Triple-A Oklahoma City, but was blocked by Mark Texiera and the behemoth Jason Botts, another top rated prospect who can also play the outfield, something Gonzo can't do.
Terrmel Sledge was expendable in the Washington Nationals outfield, and found himself in the same predicament in Texas.
The Padres, now, will probably spin off either Sledge or Dave Roberts in a future trade,
They also used Billy Killian, a former third round draft pick from the infamous 2004 draft to get this deal done. Killian, who has a lot of long range potential, would have struggled to find playing time behind top prospect Nick Hundley in Fort Wayne, a position which is by far the deepest within the Padres' organization.
Scoreboard - Draw.
A good trade for both teams. The Padres weren't going to, and shouldn't have been on the re-sign Eaton to a monster contract bandwagon on the basis of one good year. In Eaton's favor, it also would have been foolish of him to take less money when this year's market was paying for potential as opposed to sustained performance.
The Rangers get two quality pitchers for one, move a good prospect who was blocked and acquire a prospect with a long term potential in Killian.
It will hurt the team to lose Aki, but getting Young, a talented young pitcher when everyone in the league is searching for good young pitching is a real coup. Young posted a 12-7 record with a 4.26 ERA, a 137/45 strikeout to base-on-balls ratio in an incredibly hitter friendly park in Arlington. Eaton, despite pitching in PETCO, posted a 11-5 record with a 4.27 ERA and 100/44 strikeout to base-on-balls ratio, but was injured for much of the second half. Still, the Padres save a few million dollars for someone, who may not have as much potential as Eaton, but could put together a better overall season in 2006.
Adrian Gonzalez is both a good hitting and fielding first baseman, something Kevin Towers has coveted for years. The big question with Gonzo is will he hit with enough power to play first base and how many, if any, opportunities he will be given to play with Ryan Klesko camped out for his final campaign in San Diego.
The acquisition of Sledge is a possible indicator of who may be coming down the pike, David Wells. According to the published reports, the Red Sox are willing to take on Woody Williams contract in exchange for Wells, the sticking point is who else would be coming back east with Williams. Sledge and Dave Roberts are both the same type of players, and the Padres may be willing to send Roberts back to Boston, platoon Sledge and Ben Johnson, to once again acquire the Falstafian Wells.