Alex Rios Rumors

Free Agent Notes: Scherzer, Lester, Miller, Rios

Talk about the market’s top free agent, Max Scherzer, has been scarce to this point, but agent Scott Boras tells Jon Heyman of CBS Sports that he’s not worried about the quiet air surrounding his client. “Premium free agents are rarely talked about at the GM meetings,” Boras said. “This is an owners’ decision. Every GM wants him. There’s always a place for him on every team. The issue is not whether the player is wanted. The issue is whether the owner will make the commitment to try to win the World Series.” Heyman’s piece contains many examples of the litany of stats Boras will use when pitching Scherzer to owners around the league. The Tigers are said to love Scherzer, but indications at this time are that they’re out on Scherzer. That, of course, could change as the offseason progresses, though one Tigers source told Heyman that Boras’ counteroffer to the team’s six-year, $144MM extension offer was “way, way” north of that sizable $144MM sum.

A few more notes on some free agents…

  • While many top free agents take their time to see how the market plays out, a source tells MassLive.com’s Jason Mastrodonato that Jon Lester is willing to sign as soon as the right offer presents itself, “whether it is tomorrow or April 1.” While the Red Sox are known to have a preference to shy away from commitments of four-plus years to pitchers in their 30s (following their five-year deal for John Lackey), GM Ben Cherington implied that the team might be willing to make an exception for Lester, noting that it’s never been a hard policy.
  • Andrew Miller‘s agent, Mark Rodgers, tells ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick that he plans to be “methodical” in discussions with teams and doesn’t envision signing a contract in the near future. Miller is open to pitching in a setup capacity for a contending team with an entrenched closer, but he’s also generating interest from teams in need of a closer.
  • The Twins prefer to add a right-handed bat to their outfield this offseason, and while Torii Hunter has been listed in connection to Minnesota, Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN tweets that Alex Rios is another name to watch.

NL East Notes: Stanton, Mets, Nationals, Tomas, Hamels

As expected, the Marlins have begun extension talks with star outfielder Giancarlo Stanton, Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald reports on Twitter. President of baseball operations Michael Hill tells Spencer that the team has “reached out” to Stanton’s representatives and that “negotiations are ongoing.”

Here’s more from the NL East:

  • At present, the Mets are more inclined to fill their needs in the corner outfield via trade than through a free agent signing, reports Marc Carig of Newsday. New York is still hesitant to give up any of its best young talent in a swap. But veterans like Michael Morse, Alex Rios, and Torii Hunter all seem more like fallback options that the team would pursue if value can be had and nothing better has materialized. The Mets are said to prefer to add a right-handed bat.
  • One other hypothetical possibility, Nick Markakis, is not presently engaged with the team in any way, according to Matt Ehalt of The Record (Twitter link).
  • As they weigh their options at second, the Nationals are not unmindful of the Cuban market that has begun to materialize in recent weeks, James Wagner of the Washington Post reports. The primary possible targets, per Wagner, are 26-year-old Jose Fernandez and high-upside youngster Yoan Moncada. The 20-year-old Moncada will draw immense interest, with Ben Badler of Baseball America saying he is talented enough that he would be the odds-on favorite to go first overall in this year’s amateur draft (were he eligible).
  • The Phillies are still the favorite to land Cuban outfielder Yasmany Tomas, reports Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com, with A.J. Burnett‘s decision to decline his option possibly burnishing Philly’s chances. That does not mean they are without competition, of course. Other clubs that have seen (or will soon see) Tomas since his showcase include the Rangers, D’backs, Giants, Dodgers, Padres, Red Sox, and Mariners.
  • Also per Heyman, the Phillies could clear yet more payroll space and add young talent through a deal for pitcher Cole Hamels, with the Cubs still showing interest in the lefty.

Quick Hits: Stanton, Mariners, Rios, Payrolls

The Marlins hope to have Giancarlo Stanton signed to a long-term extension before the Winter Meetings, Miami president of baseball operations Michael Hill tells Jim Duquette and Jim Bowden of MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM (audio link).  Hill said that Jose Fernandez‘s rehab from Tommy John surgery is going well but the team is “not going to push anything because he is so valuable to us.”  Not included in the audio link, but available via Bowden’s Twitter feed, are Hill’s remarks about wanting to add another starting pitcher and a big bat to the Marlins’ roster this offseason.

Here’s some more from around baseball…

  • Ten hitters who the Mariners could pursue via trades or free agency are listed by Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News TribuneVictor Martinez, Michael Cuddyer and Billy Butler seem to be Seattle’s likeliest targets, Dutton believes, while players like Melky Cabrera (desire to play on the East Coast), Nelson Cruz and Yasmany Tomas (salary demands) seem unlikely to join the M’s.
  • Alex Rios is likely viewed by the Mariners and other teams as “a fall-back option” if their preferred outfield choices aren’t available, Dutton writes.  “Few if any” scouts would sign Rios to a two-year contract, though a one-year deal worth no more than $10MM “could be a reasonable…risk.”  MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes predicted Rios would find a one-year, $8.5MM deal this winter.
  • A number of trends emerged from a study of how the last 46 playoff teams allocated their payroll, Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports.  Spreading salaries around seemed to be a key factor — only nine of the 46 teams spent more than 17% of their Opening Day payroll on a single player, and the teams averaged 54.5% on their five most expensive players.  Of the 46 teams studied, only two had a highest-paid player who was also their most productive player (according to WAR).
  • With offense down, starting pitchers (maybe even the top arms) could see their market diminished in free agency this winter, ESPN’s Buster Olney writes in his latest Insider-only piece.  Conversely, this also raises the value of free agent hitters, plus some teams could receive some big returns in trades for quality bats.  Olney lists a few hitters that have already been mentioned as possible trade candidates (i.e. Yoenis Cespedes and Cubs‘ middle infielders) as well as longer-shot options as Manny Machado.
  • Mike Elias, the Astros‘ director of amateur scouting, discusses Houston’s scouting department, some prospects the difficulty in accurately grading hitting and a number of other topics as part of a wide-ranging interview with Fangraphs’ David Laurila.


Alex Rios Hires Scott Boras

Free agent outfielder Alex Rios has hired Scott Boras as his new agent, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports tweets. Rios was previously represented by the Kinzer Management Group.

Rios is hiring Boras just as he enters the free agent market for the first time. The 33-year-old was a first-round pick by the Blue Jays in 1999, and the seven-year extension he signed with them in 2008 just came to an end as the Rangers officially declined his team option earlier today. Rios hit .280/.311/.398 with only four home runs in 521 plate appearances with Texas in 2014. MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes projected Rios would get one year and $8.5MM this offseason.


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Rangers Decline Rios’ Option; Outright Adcock, Lucas, Figaro

The Rangers announced that they have officially declined their $13.5MM club option on outfielder Alex Rios in favor of a $1MM buyout. Additionally, the team has outrighted infielder Ed Lucas and right-handers Nathan Adcock and Alfredo Figaro to Triple-A Round Rock. Adcock has elected minor league free agency.

The Rangers informed Rios earlier this month that they would not pick up his $13.5MM option. Instead, Rios will receive a $2MM buyout. The corner outfielder posted a .280/.311/.398 line in 521 plate appearances this season.

The Rangers claimed Lucas from the Marlins earlier this month after he hit .251/.283/.296 in 189 plate appearances while playing six infield and outfield positions in Miami. The 26-year-old Adcock spent much of the season with Triple-A Round Rock, posting a 2.95 ERA with 9.3 K/9 but with 4.6 BB/9. The Rangers claimed Figaro from the Brewers in October after the 30-year-old posted a 3.71 ERA with 7.0 K/9 and 2.8 BB/9 in 70 1/3 innings for Triple-A Nashville.

 


Free Agent Profile: Alex Rios

Alex Rios‘ up-and-down career trend continued in 2014, with an ill-timed replacement-level performance.  The Rangers declined the outfielder’s club option, putting the 11-year veteran on the free agent market for the first time in his career.

Strengths/Pros

Rios has had a productive career.  A first-round pick of the Blue Jays out of Puerto Rico in 1999, Rios finished fifth in the AL Rookie of the Year voting in ’04.  A few seasons later he nabbed back-to-back All-Star appearances, and went on to post seasons worth three or more wins above replacement in 2010, ’12, and ’13.  When he’s at his best, Rios has shown 20 home run power as a right-handed hitter and the ability to hit .280 or better.

Alex RiosThere were positives in his 2014 season.  Rios hit .304/.335/.430 through July, which was a little better than his successful 2013 campaign.  For all of 2014 Rios hit .325/.353/.545 against southpaws.  Over the 2012-14 seasons, Rios’ .530 slugging percentage against lefties ranks 22nd in baseball.

Rios is also an asset on the basepaths.  He’s posted a positive baserunning runs above average figure in every season of his career, and ranks 18th in baseball from 2012-14 with 13.9 BsR.  He’s shown the ability to steal bases at a high success rate as recently as 2013, when he swiped 42 bags in 49 tries.

Though he missed most of the final month of the 2014 season, Rios has a track record of durability.  From 2007-13, Rios averaged 153 games per season, never dropping below 145.  This is a clear advantage over a few other corner outfield types he’ll be competing with in free agency, Mike Morse and Michael Cuddyer.  Rios didn’t technically go on the disabled list this year; he hasn’t done so since 2006.

Weaknesses/Cons

Rios’ season was seemingly spoiled by a pair of injuries.  He twisted his ankle on July 19th, and believes he developed a thumb injury as a result of compensating for the ankle.  With the bruised thumb at risk for infection, he was officially shut down on September 21st.  Explained agent Paul Kinzer to Gerry Fraley of the Dallas Morning News, “His numbers were down because of the injuries. He stayed in the lineup and tried to do all he could because of what was happening with the team.”

There are concerns independent of Rios’ 2014 injuries.  Just looking at the period prior to his ankle injury, Rios hit only three home runs in 297 plate appearances.  With 15 doubles and eight triples in that time he still managed to slug .462, but it’s fair to wonder if he’s more of a 10-15 home run guy moving forward.

There’s also the issue of Rios’ defense.  He was below average in UZR/150 this year, and has been below average in defensive runs saved in each of the last two campaigns.  A right fielder by trade, Rios’ ceiling might now be slightly above-average in the outfield, as opposed to the defensive weapon he once was.

Rios’ terrible performance in August this year still counts, and the result was a season with negative offensive value.  Throw in unimpressive defense and it was a replacement level campaign.  It’s not the first time — Rios was worth less than one win above replacement in each of the ’05, ’09, and ’11 seasons as well.  Rios’ batting average on balls in play seems to lack stability, with low marks in ’09 and ’11.

Rios is not much for the free pass, drawing walks at a 5.9% clip in his career and 4.4% this year.  Among those with at least 500 plate appearances this year, only ten players drew walks at a lower rate than Rios.

Personal

Rios was born in Coffee, Alabama but grew up and resides with his wife and two children in Guaynabo, Puerto Rico.  What were Rios’ parents doing in Coffee, Alabama, anyway?  “They must have been passing through,” the outfielder told Mike Ulmer of the Toronto Sun a decade ago.

As Rios told Ulmer, as a child growing up in Puerto Rico, he wanted to quit baseball at age 13 to spend more time with his friends.  His father, Israel, pushed him to continue playing.

Rios participated in the World Baseball Classic for Puerto Rico in ’06, ’09, and ’13.  He told Daryl Van Schouwen of the Chicago Sun-Times last year, “When you represent your country and the name of your country is across your chest, it really means a lot.”

Market

With Adam Dunn expected to retire, Rios is now the active leader for most games played with no postseason experience.  Having earned almost $75MM in his career, it’s possible Rios will prioritize finding a contending club, not that contenders are always easy to predict.

Rios’ competition in the market for corner outfielders this winter includes Melky Cabrera, Nick Markakis, Mike Morse, Michael Cuddyer, Torii Hunter, and Nori Aoki.  For a team that misses out on Cabrera or can’t fit him into their budget, Rios should be a palatable alternative.  The Orioles, Reds, Tigers, Astros, Royals, Twins, Mets, Yankees, Phillies, and Giants seem like potential fits.

Expected Contract

Rios could choose the security of a two-year deal this winter, as Justin Morneau and Garrett Jones did last offseason.  However, Rios already has financial security, and seems more likely to bet on himself and take a one-year deal as Corey Hart, Chris Young, and Mike Morse did last year.  I’m pegging Rios for one year and $8.5MM.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


Rangers Inform Rios That Club Will Decline Option

The Rangers have informed outfielder Alex Rios that the club will decline its $13.5MM option for next year, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports. Rios will instead receive a $2MM buyout.

That news is hardly a surprise, as Texas was said to be leaning strongly in that direction. Rios ended his first full season with the club on somewhat of a down note, ending the year on the DL with a thumb issue after a tough season. He slashed .280/.311/.398 over 521 plate appearances on the year, hitting four home runs and swiping 17 bags a year after he was good for 18 long balls and 42 steals. With his value on the bases down and defensive metrics generally viewing Rios as a below-average right fielder, he ultimately landed just above replacement level.

Rios should still garner plenty of interest on the free agent market. He will be entering his age-34 season, so a lengthy pact would be surprising, but Rios is not far removed from some very good seasons. Over 2012-13, he slashed .291/.329/.473 in 1,302 plate appearances with 43 home runs and 65 steals.

The news that the Rangers will decline the option brings to an end one of the more interesting contracts in recent memory. Fresh off of two big seasons, Rios inked a seven-year, $69.835MM extension with the Blue Jays back in April of 2008. Things turned sharply down in the 2009 season, but Toronto was famously bailed out of the deal when the White Sox claimed Rios off waivers.

Though Rios struggled mightily at times in Chicago, the club was rewarded at the end with the aforementioned seasons, and ultimately was able to trade Rios to the Rangers last August in exchange for Leury Garcia. Heading into the year, Rios’s option actually seemed likely to be picked up, which was quite a turnaround for that much-maligned extension. All said, over the life of the deal, Rios was worth just north of 15 wins above replacement (by the reckoning of both Fangraphs and Baseball-Reference).


AL Notes: Rios, Leyva, Tanaka

Alex Rios‘ career with the Rangers could be over. The outfielder has a bruised right thumb, and MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan reports that Rios has decided it would be better to simply not play, since the thumb has not gotten better and risks infection. The Rangers are expected to decline Rios’ $13.5MM option this offseason and pay his $1MM buyout, which means that his next big-league plate appearance could come with another team. In Rios’ absence, Sullivan writes, the Rangers will likely move Shin-Soo Choo from left field to right and spend their savings on pitchers. Here’s more from the American League.

  • The Orioles have officially announced the signing of Cuban pitcher Lazaro Leyva. CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reported the signing in September, although Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun reported earlier this weekend that the two sides were still in the process of finalizing the signing. The deal is reportedly for $725K.
  • Yankees ace Masahiro Tanaka made a successful first start on Sunday after missing two months with an elbow injury, allowing one run while striking out four and walking none in 5 1/3 innings against the Blue Jays. He says that his elbow feels good and that he does not think he needs Tommy John surgery, Brendan Kuty of NJ.com reports. “It’s pain-free,” Tanaka says, adding that he rarely thinks about the injury. A strong full season from Tanaka would, clearly, provide a huge boost for the Yankees in 2015 — he’s been one of the best pitchers in the American League this year when he’s been healthy.

Quick Hits: Stewart, Hill, Braves, Rangers

MLBTR has been keeping track of all the rumors and candidates tied to the Diamondbacks‘ GM search, and it appears as if Dave Stewart is now “the favorite” to be the team’s next general manager, Bob Nightengale of USA Today tweets.  Stewart will formally interview for the job this week.  Here’s some more news from around baseball…

  • Aaron Hill tells FOX Sports’ Jack Magruder that he wants to remain with the Diamondbacks next season.  Hill has lost September playing time to some of the D’Backs’ young infielders and was shopped before the July trade deadline.  It’s no surprise that Arizona might be looking to the future given that Hill has struggled this season, he’ll be 33 next Opening Day and the second baseman is still owed $24MM through the 2016 season.
  • While the Braves are still on the fringes of the NL wild card race, it looks like this could be a lost season for Atlanta.  MLB.com’s Mark Bowman looks at how the team was hurt by some front office and player (namely, Tim Hudson) losses and Bowman wonders if the Braves could shake up the coaching staff or even consider replacing GM Frank Wren.
  • The Rangers have used 27 different position players this season, and MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan looks at how each of them could fit into the 2015 team as Texas looks to rebound from this injury-riddled campaign.  Sullivan’s comments include his opinion that the Rangers will pick up Alex Rios‘ contract option for 2015 and that the catching situation “may be the most intriguing decision” of the offseason as the team will have to decide if Robinson Chirinos will be the regular catcher.

West Notes: Doolittle, Tulo, CarGo, Preller, Rios

In a guest piece on the blog of ESPN.com’s Buster Olney (Insider link), Athletics closer Sean Doolittle offers a look inside some of the less conventional advanced metrics employed by Oakland’s front office. In particular, a unique twist on BABIP (batting average relative to Bip Roberts) seems to have played an important role in the organization’s oft-noted ability to outperform its payroll. (Obviously, the piece is in jest, but it’s a fun read from a player who has had quite an interesting career path.)

Here’s more from the game’s western divisions:

  • The Rockies will soon learn more about the injury situations of their two stars, Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez, as Thomas Harding of MLB.com reports, as both men are set to visit specialists today. Tulowitzki, battling a strained left hip flexor, may have a hip labrum his issue. If that is the case, there are non-surgical options that might allow him to return to action this year. Meanwhile, Gonzalez is struggling with chronic tendinitis in his left knee. He, too, could conceivably play again in 2014, though some treatments would keep him out until the spring. Needless to say, the lingering (and, potentially, expanding) injury concerns with both players not only create yet more questions about Colorado’s ability to put together a contending roster next year, but could further dampen the possibility of either player being dealt over the offseason.
  • When the Padres hired A.J. Preller to take over as GM, they agreed with the Rangers not to hire away any Texas front office staffers over the next two year, Scott Miller of Bleacher Report tweets. Presumably, the Rangers were able to extract this promise in exchange for allowing San Diego to interview and hire away Preller himself before his own contract was up.
  • More on Preller: Miller applauds the Friars for taking a chance on a bold candidate. And on his blog, Jamey Newberg provides some interesting thoughts on Preller, who he calls a “scout’s scout who prefers doing his work behind the scenes.”
  • Though Alex Rios of the Rangers appears to have avoided a significant injury, his continued absence from the lineup means that he is increasingly unlikely to be dealt, writes ESPNDallas.com’s Calvin Watkins. Not only do the Royals now appear to be an unlikely suitor, says Watkins, but other possible landing spots could disappear as the month goes on and playoff races clarify.