NATIONAL HARBOR, Maryland -- The next brick has been laid in what already looks like an incredibly promising White Sox rebuild.
Chicago acquired No. 3 overall prospect Lucas Giolito, No. 38 overall prospect Reynaldo Lopez and 2016 first-round pick Dane Dunning from the Nationals on Wednesday for outfielder Adam Eaton.
It's the second major prospect-based trade the White Sox have pulled off in as many days. They obtained top overall prospect Yoan Moncada,, right-handers Michael Kopech and Victor Diaz and outfielder Luis Alexander Basabe from the Red Sox on Tuesday for All-Star left-hander Chris Sale.
"We gave up a young player, a very good young player and someone who will absolutely be missed," White Sox general manager Rick Hahn said. "At the same time, we're ecstatic about the return we were able to secure, and that's a result of some hard work by our scouts, the amateur scouts -- and the background work they did on these players for a numbers of years -- our international scouts, everybody from the front office targeting what we feel are high-impact, potential top-of-the-rotation pieces that will help further our goal of getting ourselves sustained success."
As things stand in MLB.com's rankings, Giolito is the game's highest-ranked pitching prospect. The 22-year-old right-hander has been lauded for his mid-90's fastball as well as a hammer curveball and slightly above-average changeup. A 2012 first-rounder who underwent Tommy John surgery that same year, Giolito was solid in the Minors in 2016 with a 2.97 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 116 strikeouts and 44 walks over 115 1/3 innings, mostly at Double-A Harrisburg and Triple-A Syracuse. He struggled, however, in the Majors, posting a 6.75 ERA with 11 strikeouts and 12 walks in 21 1/3 frames.
Still, with his combination of stuff and youth, Giolito remains one of the Minors' most promising arms and likely will move to the No. 2 overall prospect spot behind Moncada when lists are updated in January.
Lopez used a breakout 2016 season to move from outside the top 100 to his current spot at No. 38. The 22-year-old right-hander compiled a 3.21 ERA and 1.14 WHIP with 126 strikeouts and 35 walks in 109 1/3 innings at Syracuse and Harrisburg. Like Giolito, he never quite forced his way into the conversation in the Majors, posting a 4.91 ERA, 42 strikeouts and 22 walks over 44 innings while working as a starter and reliever for manager Dusty Baker.
Lopez receives impressive grades for his mid- to high-90's fastball and has a developing curveball to go with a slightly below-average changeup. Because of that package, the native of the Dominican Republic could be destined for the bullpen, where he'd have a place to shine in a game growing ever more reliant on relievers. The White Sox are expected to continue working him as a starter.
In Giolito and Lopez, the White Sox don't seem overly concerned about their first impressions in the Majors.
"We'll handle that internally," Hahn said of the team's plans to work with the pair. "These are obviously guys who came up quickly to the highest level at a young age. Certainly what they did at the big league level is something we looked at, but not quite as closely as what they've done over their body of work over a larger sample at the Minor League level. They're both not finished products. ... We are very optimistic about their ceilings, but we're not going to force the issue and get them to Chicago quickly. We'll do that on the timeline as their performance dictates as opposed to seeing a need in Chicago."
Dunning joins his second organization after being selected 29th overall last June out of the University of Florida. His fastball and changeup are considered his best pitches with a slider that needs work to give him the three-pitch mix typical of solid big league starters. The 21-year-old pitched mostly at Class A Short Season Auburn in 2016, posting a 2.14 ERA and 0.98 WHIP with 29 strikeouts and seven walks over 33 2/3 innings.
According to Hahn, Dunning likely will start the 2017 season at Class A Kannapolis or Class A Advanced Winston-Salem.
With Giolito, Lopez and Kopech, the White Sox boast three top pitching prospects, each of whom is held in higher regard than previous top arm Carson Fulmer. Dunning slots into the No. 10 spot in an ever-improving White Sox system, according to MLB.com.
"We view all three of them actually as having the potential to become front-end-of-the-rotation fixtures for us over an extended period of time," Hahn said. "Now there's still a fair amount of development with each of them. Both Lucas and Lopez made it to the big leagues last year and conceivably will contribute to the 2017 White Sox as well. However, we're going to wait to the point where they're ready to contribute and perform well at the big league level for an extended period of time.
"Dane Dunning is a guy who was very high on our Draft board last year and was someone that our amateur scouts were very high on and were very excited about potentially acquiring the last few days as his name came up. ... With the starters over the last few days in Giolito, Lopez, Dunning and Kopech, we feel we got four guys, all of who could be at the front of a White Sox rotation for a long time."
With that type of return, one could make the case that the prospects involved are the headliners of the trade. From a Major League standpoint, however, it's Eaton who will make the quickest impact. The 28-year-old has quietly become one of the game's most impressive outfielders and was worth 6.0 WAR last season after hitting .284/.362/.428 with 14 homers and 14 stolen bases in 157 games following a move to right field. What made Eaton especially valuable as a trade asset was a team-friendly contract that calls for him to make $18.4 million over the next three seasons, with a $9.5 million team option for 2020 and a $10.5 million team option for 2021. Assuming both options are picked up, he'll be under contract for five more seasons.
In Washington, Eaton is expected to slide back to center field, with Trea Turner assuming duties at shortstop.
"We feel comfortable with the deal," Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo said. "I'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've got ourselves a good, young skillful player that we control at below-market values for five seasons."