On the whole, I like the signing. After the Jamie Moyer re-signing, I made a mental list of second tier free agent starter pitchers (i.e. no Matsuzaka, Mussina, Maddux, Schmidt) that I was hoping the Phillies would target if they could get them at the right price; the list, in order, included Adam Eaton, Randy Wolf, Tomo Ohka, and Gil Meche. Getting the guy at the top of a list of second tier guys may not be the most exciting news in the world, but it's another step in the right direction for an organization desperately trying to find it's way. The free agent market has been so screwy this offseason that I think it would have been best for the Phils to distance themselves from signing any starting pitcher and instead look to fill the remaining hole in their rotation via the trade route. That said, I realize that this is a bit of an unrealistic approach to expect the local ballclub to take when they've got the combination of pressure from the fans eager for a signing, a handful of solid options available on the market, and money burning a hole in their collective pocket. Given the available, realistic options out there, Adam Eaton was a fine choice.
Eaton is at worst an injury plagued, league average when healthy back of the rotation starting pitcher (slightly overpaid at $8 million/season). At best, he is a player with vast untapped potential who has only been held back by nagging injuries and who, if healthy, could ultimately provide the Phillies with impressive bang for their buck in this exploding free agent market (a steal in today's game). Needless to say, the fan in me hopes that Eaton will be at his best for the three (maybe four) years he is in Philly.
I think that it is very fair and almost always correct to argue that a 29-year old baseball player is what he is at that point in his career...and even though I believe this very strongly, I can't help but waver in the case of Eaton. I liken this signing to the recent drafting of Cole Hamels and Kyle Drabek - the Phillies wouldn't have been able to get guys with such upside so late in the first round if each didn't have major injury/character concerns associated with them. Now this is a point that can be argued back and forth all day long, but if Adam Eaton had not got hurt at (pick any random point along his development path), then there is no way the Phillies could have signed him for the deal they got him at in the first place. IF
Adam Eaton can stay healthy in 2007, I do not think it is unreasonable to expect a career year out of him - I realize that doesn't mean all that much after looking at his career numbers, but his peripherals have always been solid and he appeared to be on the verge of a breakout season in 2005 before a midseason injury took him down, so he must have been doing something right at some point.
I think it's interesting that the Adam Eaton signing and the David Dellucci signing were both finalized on the same day. It boggles the mind to compare what Eaton, a pretty sizable risk based on his checkered injury history, got on the open market compared to what Dellucci, way more of a sure thing when used properly (the man just flat kills righties), wound up getting paid. Eaton signed a contract paying him an average of $8 million annually. Dellucci signed a contract paying him less than half of that per season (just under $4 million per). Signing a pitcher is almost always a bigger risk than signing a position player due to the unpredictable nature of pitching...and yet teams willingly throw more money at pitching than they do comparable hitting. I understand why (need, mostly) and I see the logic in that to an extent, but it's still wacky.