Phillies release veteran Eaton
Right-hander has $9 million remaining on contract
CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Adam Eaton noted the irony Friday while standing inside an empty Phillies clubhouse at Bright House Field.
Philadelphia signed him to a three-year, $24.5 million contract on Nov. 30, 2006, because it thought he could help the club win a World Series. The Phillies won that World Series last October, but he played no role in that unforgettable championship run.
Now, Eaton plays no role in their future, too.
Philadelphia released Eaton on Friday morning. He has 48 hours to clear waivers, which is expected, because any team that claims him would be responsible for the $9.15 million he is owed this year ($8.65 million base salary, plus a $500,000 buyout on a 2010 club option). Once Eaton clears waivers, he is free to sign with another team. If he signs with another team and makes a Major League roster, Eaton's new team would be responsible for just $400,000 (the Major League minimum salary) of his contract.
"Sometimes you make the right decision on people and sometimes you don't," Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said. "This was one of them that wasn't."
The Phillies drafted Eaton in the first round of the 1996 First-Year Player Draft. They traded him to the San Diego Padres on Nov. 10, 1999, for Andy Ashby, who also proved to be a disappointment for Philadelphia.
"When I left last time, they got Andy Ashby. When I leave now, they just get Andy Ashby's contract," Eaton said. "It's sad, but I wish I was able to earn that money while I'm still in this uniform."
Eaton went 10-10 with a 6.29 ERA in 2007, and 4-8 with a 5.80 ERA in '08. The Phillies asked him to accept a Minor League assignment last season. He accepted, but went 0-5 with a 7.16 ERA combined for Class A Lakewood, Double-A Reading and Triple-A Lehigh Valley.
Eaton rejoined the team in September, but did not pitch. The Phillies asked him if he wanted to pitch in the instructional league in Florida during the National League Division Series to stay sharp in case of an injury -- although pitchers Kyle Kendrick and Rudy Seanez would have been chosen before Eaton had there been any injuries to the pitching staff.
Eaton declined the invitation because he knew he wouldn't be asked to join the postseason roster. So he returned to Washington and watched the playoffs from home. The players who participated in the instructional league ultimately rejoined the team and watched the NL Championship Series and World Series from the bench. They also attended the championship parade.
Eaton never attended the parade.
"The only thing I regret about not being there for the World Series was not sharing it with my teammates," Eaton said. "I never thought about coming, because I was like, 'They're doing so well.' I didn't want to show up and say, 'Hey guys, look who's here.' I think that would be a little two-faced on my part. I weighed my decision very carefully before I was given the opportunity. I was not going to make the playoff roster, obviously. I haven't pitched in the big leagues since whenever. July?"
|"There's a lot of pitching that we want to see, and I think it's important for us to give those other players an opportunity to pitch, knowing that Adam wasn't going to be a factor for us."|
|-- Ruben Amaro Jr.|
Eaton wasn't sure why his time with the Phillies wasn't a success. He battled right shoulder injuries in 2007, which cost him time on the disabled list. He said he contemplated surgery the following offseason. He also battled back problems.
But little went as planned for Eaton. Is he upset with the way things worked out?
"I don't think upset is the right word," Eaton said. "Underachieve, yeah. I wasn't as healthy as I'd like to be. ... I did have moments of success, but for whatever reason, they were short-lived. I know there's a lot still left in my arm. A blip? Yeah. It's a two-year blip. I plan to return to that [prior] form, and with a few tweaks here and there, I'll be there."
Eaton had been scheduled to pitch Saturday against the Tampa Bay Rays at Bright House Field, but he was the second pitcher coming out of the bullpen.
There was no hiding the fact the Phillies felt Eaton had no place on their team.
"We didn't view him as a reliever, and we didn't see him -- where we are depth-wise, in the starting rotation -- that he was going to be in the mix to compete for that spot," Amaro said. "There's a lot of pitching that we want to see, and I think it's important for us to give those other players an opportunity to pitch, knowing that Adam wasn't going to be a factor for us."
The Phillies received some criticism when they signed Eaton to his lucrative contract, but Eaton said he never felt pressure to live up to his contract.
"If you're out there working hard, doing the things you can to prepare, you are earning that money," Eaton said. "The results, you can have the best teacher in the world, but if the student tries hard [and] just can't get a concept, it doesn't mean they've failed as a teacher. I failed as performing to how I wanted to perform, but to say I failed as a teammate, I failed as an athlete, no.
"We're all tested on a day-to-day basis. I passed a lot of days, but my results weren't very good. I think the test results weren't very good. To have a label put on you to be a certain way is fine. I have a higher label on myself than I think a lot of people do, especially now."
Asked if would miss the Phillies, Eaton's eyes appeared to well up.
"[There are] a lot of good guys in here," Eaton said. "That's the hard part. It was only two years, but there are a lot of names in here that should be well-respected."
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.