ESPN’s Buster Olney reports in his blog that the Blue Jays are willing to trade right fielder Alex Rios, who turns 26 in February. The Blue Jays are in search of one more quality starter to pair with Roy Halladay, A.J. Burnett, Gustavo Chacin, and perhaps Casey Janssen or Shaun Marcum. It’s a necessity in the AL East.
Back in 2004, Baseball America ranked Rios sixth among all prospects, between Rickie Weeks and Kaz Matsui. Rios earned a promotion to Toronto without mastering Triple A, and his growth kind of stagnated for two years. He played some center field while Vernon Wells was out, and also served as the leadoff hitter for a while.
Before the breakout, many teams tried to pry Rios away. The Nats talked about a Rios for Nick Johnson deal in December of 2004. You can bet Jim Bowden would love him in CF, but doesn’t have the goods for a trade. In the winter of ’05, the Rangers were offering Kevin Mench for Rios while the Nats countered with Brad Wilkerson.
The much-awaited breakout happened this year, as Rios mashed at .330/.383/.585 for 270 ABs leading up to his June 29th leg injury (staph infection). He returned on July 28th and hit .261/.297/.411 thereafter. It was an ugly couple of months but he did bounce back in September.
Some projections for ’07:
Ron Shandler: .293/.337/.500
Bill James: .286/.336/.442
On his glovework, The Fielding Bible wrote:
"Rios is an excellent defender, a five-tool player with outstanding range and speed and a strong, accurate arm suited for right field. The Jays would love to switch him to center field where he is a better offensive fit, but they have a Gold Glover in Vernon Wells entrenched there."
With Ichiro now in center, Rios may be baseball’s best defensive RF.
Olney mentions a few trade possibilities: to the Dodgers for Brad Penny, to the A’s for Joe Blanton, or to the Mets for a package of young guys. Olney didn’t bring up the White Sox, but there could be an excellent fit. The Sox could use Rios in center in 2007, and perhaps shift him back to right in ’08 if Jermaine Dye leaves.