Winter Meetings interview with Dusty Baker, Mike Rizzo

Q. We know how much you guys value Giolito, Lopez and all those guys over the years. What made you comfortable parting with them for Eaton?
MIKE RIZZO: Adam fills a lot of things we were looking for in the player that we wanted to acquire. It's never easy to let go of your prospects. You know, you feel like a proud daddy when they get to the big leagues and it's difficult to let 'em go. All three of those guys are high serving guys that have a bright future.

Adam fit our club perfectly, left-handed bat, balanced our line-up, high energy guy, edge to him, plays the game the right way, good hitter, good defensive player both in center field and outstanning in the corner, a productive player throughout his career. We see the arrow still going up with him and he's a guy that will have years of control and cost certainty and it allows us the flexibility to do many more things.

Q. Dusty, I know the trade just happened. Where do you see him hitting in the line-up given his speed and he's left-handed?
DUSTY BAKER: Right now I'm not sure. I have to lay eyes on him first, see how my line-up balances out. He could hit a number of places from top to seventh, even, just depends on if I want to break the left handers up. I have to talk to him first to see what he feels most comfortable with and I have to talk to all the subjects that are going to be in line, and I gotta talk to everybody and just sorta see.

What you do in the beginning doesn't necessarily mean that that's how it's going to end up. That's what Spring Training is for, what the beginning of the season is for. So, you know, we'll figure it out.

Q. Mike, compared to other center fielders you guys have looked at, how important was the terms of control that you have with Eaton? And defensively do you look at him as a center fielder now and in the long term?
MIKE RIZZO: The term and the price tag had importance to us, but we really liked the skill of the player. He's a type of player that we've been looking for here. We see him playing center field at least for in the short-term. He's got a five years of control with us.

In the short-term, he certainly is capable of playing center field very well. He's an outstanding corner outfielder, it gives us, again, the flexibility to do different things. He can play multiple positions, which several of our players can and he's performed admirably throughout his entire career.

Q. The metrics the last couple years when he was in center field, '14 was really good and '15 was not as good. What gives you the confidence going forward that he could be a good defensive player?
MIKE RIZZO: Our scouts have evaluated him and we've seen him play quite a bit over the last couple years, including this year. It was one of the few times in the draft room in the well room where the analytical information matched up with the scouting eye, and it was a decision in the room that was fairly easy for us to make to determine that this was the player at this time. With that skill set, with the control of the player at that price was the right guy for us to do.

He gave us the most value for the players that we were giving up and it's a fit that, again, makes us better on the field and also makes us better in the clubhouse, and it brings energy between the lines and gives us a little edge and excitement at the ballpark.

Q. Mike, did you scout him in Arizona? I'm trying to remember.
MIKE RIZZO: I was gone by then.

Q. Really?
MIKE RIZZO: Yeah.

Q. The other thing is we have heard about Lopez and Giolito and how they looked, future key pieces to the pitching staff. How unusual is it to trade two people viewed internally that well for one player?
MIKE RIZZO: Well, I always said it's not how many players you trade away, it's who you trade away. So to acquire a player with this skill set that has the years of control and the favorable -- the contract that he has is -- you know, takes good players in return. We're fortunate enough, we trade from a position of depth. We felt we have great depth in our starting pitching. We utilized that to turn a relatively -- a hole in our line-up and we dealt from strength and depth to correct that and we still like the depth that we have beyond the Major League rotation.

We still have our rotation intact from last year, we haven't touched that and we still feel that we have a good amount of Major League caliber pitching depth behind it.

Q. You guys have now made two pretty low cost moves in Norris and now Eaton. Do you see that setting you up to make a bigger investment in somebody this off-season or made with a long-term vision?
MIKE RIZZO: The decisions aren't made in a vacuum. We certainly have our plans for 2017 and beyond. Again, it gives us flexibility both positionally -- flexibility payroll-wise and it allows us to do -- puts us in a position to do a lot of things.

Q. You guys have been having discussions with the White Sox for Sale at first and I'm wondering how quickly this all came about, was his name discussed at those times or how quickly did this come about?
MIKE RIZZO: We've discussed this player and several other players with the White Sox for quite a while now. It did gain momentum after the Sale deal was done and it actually came together fairly quickly over the last couple of days.

Q. Does this mean Trea Turner is now your shortstop? And if so, where does that leave Danny Espinosa?
MIKE RIZZO:
Well, it leaves us with a lot of options. We have positional flexibility, or we continue to have positional flexibility and we will make those decisions down the road as we see fit.

Q. Can you add significant payroll in this off-season?
MIKE RIZZO: We've said from the beginning we have the flexibility financially to do something, and we think that this deal was built around asset allocation. We feel this is a good -- Adam Eaton is a heck of a good player with long-term control and a favorable contract.

Q. Is it fair to say, having added a piece that immediately helps in exchange for two pieces that were just coming along, that this feels like a "go for it" move as opposed to a gradual building move? And if that's the case, you said a lot more might still come. Do you mean this off-season presumably is what you hope?
MIKE RIZZO: The fact that we have Adam Eaton for five seasons and control of him for five seasons is a long-term, global type of decision. We feel that we put ourselves in a position not only for '17 to be better but to be better in the long term.

Q. What was your intel on the make-up and you said you liked the edge, can you expound on that?
MIKE RIZZO: Just the way he plays as we played against him over the years. Of course we do our due diligence on every player. We liked what we heard from different aspects of people we checked on. He plays with an edge. He's playing 100 miles an hour with his hair on fire, he hustles, he will dive for balls, he will steal a base, he goes into second base hard.

In the Brewer's box, his hitting approach is he never gives in. He's a balanced hitter splitwise, he hits lefties as well as righties. So it brings a good skill set to our bull club. He's more contact oriented and hits in situations and can do a lot of things. He bunts the ball, hits the ball the other way. You can hit and run with him, he's got some sneaking pop and skill on the base. I think the arrow offensively is going up and a guy that has defensive flexibility for us.

Q. Dusty, we talked about guys you've had your eye on, oh, I'd like to have that guy, what do you know about Eaton and has he been one of the guys over the years?
DUSTY BAKER: Over the years, I know when I was in Cincinnati Walt Jocketty liked him because he went to school with Walt's son who was a ballplayer. And he has been on everybody's radar for a while and an underrated player.

The only negative I've heard is you have to calm him down a little bit because he goes 100% all the time, which is not a bad way to play this game.

In Arizona, he was there. I was very surprised that they had traded him at that point in time to the White Sox because I thought he was a good player. I'm just hoping that he comes -- brings the same thing to our team. You know, you need some guys that are sort of like, you know, guys that come to play every day. Our guys come to play every day but this guy he's not afraid to get dirty and grimy, greasy, nasty, do everything there is to beat you.

Q. Mike, for a while you guys said you didn't want to trade Lucas Giolito, you said he was untouchable. Curious if you changed your mind on him and whether that was a factor on him being made available?
MIKE RIZZO: I think the determining factor to do a deal that included Lucas was the player that we got in return. It was something that fit for us well. We liked, again, the flexibility of the contract and the control of the player and the player itself.

The analytical side of it was very, very positive. Our scouts loved him, loved the way he played. I think he brings a good package to the ball club.

Q. Eaton has gotten recognition over the years All-Star-wise, stuff like that. What do you guys see that the casual fan doesn't see given the package you've given up here?
MIKE RIZZO: He hits for average. He's a contact guy. He gets on base. He's got some power. He plays great defense. He throws outstanding. He's got a great arm that's accurate, he throws runners out.

As far as the analytics, he comes from a high war as a corner outfielder. We feel he is going to be a solid performer in center field. And he's a tough out, he grinds out at-bats, he rarely swings and misses. He puts up a good at-bat when needed. And we feel that, his make-up, attitude, position and flexibility was something that was important to us.

Q. You've now got three prominent left-handed hitters in Murphy, Harper and Eaton. Dusty and Mike, how do you see yourself not being vulnerable to left-handed pitching? How do you split them with the line-up you've got or do you need to change that?
DUSTY BAKER: I mean, that has to remain to be seen. Plus, in Adam's case and especially in Murphy's case, they hit equally against left handers and right handers. We do know that it poses a problem for us with quality left handers with all three of them possibly being back-to-back-to-back, but that remains to be seen.

Until I lay eyes on them and on a daily basis, we do have options to break 'em up. One thing is for sure, Murphy and Harper are going to be somewhere in the middle of that line-up. We will just have to determine where I put everybody else.

Q. How does he play with Trea which is more likely to lead off?
DUSTY BAKER: I have to talk to him. I gotta communicate with him, I gotta give him some of my thoughts and get some of their thoughts. But I have been around quite a bit longer than they have, so I imagine that they will listen to my thoughts probably even more than I will listen to theirs. But I will listen to theirs to a degree.

MIKE RIZZO: We like the fact that they're balanced hitters, all three of those left-handed hitters. I don't worry about any three -- either of those three hitters coming up and bringing a left-handed pitcher. Adam is almost completely balanced against lefties and righties. Murphy also. And Harp has been outstanding. Those are our big bats. We felt a need to get more balanced. We hit left-handed pitching very well last year and struggled a little bit against right-handed pitching. So we thought it was something that balanced us out and gave us more of an uptick against right-handed pitching and something that we felt was a need for us.

Q. You've both mentioned the edge and energy that Adam plays with. Do you think that's something your team has been lacking and something specifically you think needed to be added?
MIKE RIZZO: I think we've got a lot of quiet leaders on this team. We've got guys who really, really care. I think that it's always good to have a mixture of all those type of personalities. You've got the stoic, quiet leader, lead by example guy like Zim and then you've got the louder, more flamboyant leader like Harp. So I think Adam is going to fit in perfectly there. He and Murph seem to be extremely locked in type of players who focus, have extreme focus.

I think it's a good mix. I like guys who get after it, play with their hair on fire a little bit and bring some energy to the ballpark.

DUSTY BAKER: I would like to add to that that I don't think it's anything that we have been lacking, we just got some more. There is no harm in having more of whatever you have now.

Q. Everybody seems to be asking about offense, the line-up, the locker room. Could you talk about what this does to make you a better defensive ball club?
DUSTY BAKER: Defensively it's a possibility that we could have Golden Gloves everywhere. This is what you want.

Offense wins games but defense loses games. I'm big on defense, because if you -- the better defense you have the less you have to hit most of the time. We have more speed now, we're a speed defense. And in pitching and we are a team that can hit. Let's not forget we won 95 games and we think we've added to that.

Q. Is it possible that he could move to a corner outfield spot and move Turner to center field again? Could that be one option for long term?
MIKE RIZZO: Positional flexibility is a good thing to have, we have it, we have several players that can play different positions successfully. Trea has proven he can play shortstop, center field, second base effectively. Bryce has proved he can play center field, left and right, same thing with Adam Eaton. So we have a lot of flexibility and it allows us a lot of ways to put a lineup on the field.

Q. Lucas Giolito has gotten a lot of attention, TV programs on him, top pitching prospect last year in baseball. Lopez comes up internally, passes him so people that are watching don't really know those two guys. Eaton is not conspicuous, he doesn't play on a 95-win team. The immediate reaction is they gave away two great prospects for somebody I don't know who he is. There is going to be optic blow-back probably, how do you feel about that? How it looks?
MIKE RIZZO: We feel comfortable with the deal. We've done a lot of deals. I like win-win deals. I think the White Sox did a great job of acquiring good, potential upside players. We got ourselves a good, young skillful player that we can control at below market values for five seasons and, again, you got to give to get.

We certainly got what we wanted in Adam Eaton, the White Sox should and do feel good about what they acquired in this. The good thing is we have depth behind them in the prospect ranks. We have five quality starters that are already in the major leagues and signed long term. We feel good about where we're at as an organization and as a franchise.