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Alex Rios Rumors
Top White Sox prospect Carlos Rodon will make his first career big league start on Saturday. Rodon has pitched from the pen in the early going, but will get a chance to take the hill to open the game due to the five-game suspension of Jeff Samardzija. It remains to be seen what the team’s plans are the rest of the way with their highly-touted rookie, who was taken in last year’s draft out of N.C. State, but there seems to be at least a chance that he could pitch himself into a starting role given the struggles the team has had at the back end of the rotation.
- Speaking of interesting Saturday starters, the Indians will purchase the contract of journeyman lefty Bruce Chen to face the Twins this weekend, MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian tweets. Chen inked a minor league deal with Cleveland and chose to stay with the organization rather than opting out when he did not make the Opening Day roster. The team will need to clear space on both its 40-man and 25-man rosters.
- Of broader concern for the Indians, GM Chris Antonetti and manager Terry Francona are facing their biggest challenge of their combined tenure, Paul Hoynes of the Plain Dealer explains. Expectations were high heading into the year, of course, and the club has roundly struggled thus far. The sense of urgency is evident, says Hoynes, as demonstrated by the team’s decision not to play center fielder Michael Bourn against lefties. As Hoynes rightly points out, the Bourn contract looked like a nice value when it was signed, but has hardly worked out for the Indians. Bourn has not only struggled offensively this year, but is not even providing the anticipated positive contribution in the field and on the bases. (Both UZR and DRS rate him as a negative in center over last year and this season’s early going.)
- Royals skipper Ned Yost says that he hopes outfielder Alex Rios will be back from his hand injury in about two weeks, per ESPN News Services. But the veteran just started swinging a bat again and does not have a precise timeline, per a tweet from Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star. His replacements — Paulo Orlando and Jarrod Dyson — have actually been pretty good, at least if you buy into a short sample of defensive metrics. Both fWAR and rWAR value the pair at nearly one combined win above replacement.
11:24am: GM Dayton Moore says that the expectation is Rios will only miss three to six weeks of action, though it is too early to establish a precise timeline, McCullough reports (Twitter links). Dyson and Orlando will indeed share right field for the time being, Moore adds. The club may replace Rios on the roster with another pitcher.
10:50am: Royals outfielder Alex Rios fractured his left hand in yesterday’s action, Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star reports on Twitter. It is a non-displaced fracture, MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan tweets. There is no timetable for his return as of yet, though obviously a DL stint will be in order.
Rios’s injury comes as a fairly significant disappointment for a Kansas City club that is off to a 7-0 start. Rios, 34, has played a big role in that effort, slashing .321/.345/.464 in his first 29 plate appearances while contributing a home run and two stolen bases. Signed to a one-year, $11MM contract out of free agency, the veteran represents a significant portion of the team’s payroll.
Fortunately, the Royals do have a capable replacement on hand in Jarrod Dyson, a rangy outfielder and highly productive baserunner. Despite below-average batting lines and less than 300 plate appearances in each of the last two years, Dyson has racked up 5.6 fWAR and 4.4 rWAR over that span. Of course, the team has been able to maximize his value by limiting his exposure to left-handed pitching. Right-handed-hitting rookie Paulo Orlando is also on the active roster, and could share time with Dyson in right.
Given the internal options and the teams payroll restrictions, to say nothing of Rios’s still-uncertain timeline, a significant outside addition seems unlikely at this point. Of course, hand injuries can be trouble for hitters, so the progress of Rios will be something to keep an eye on as the season progresses.
Here’s the latest from Joel Sherman of the New York Post:
- The Blue Jays, Athletics, Cubs, White Sox and Angels are interested in Stephen Drew to play second base but don’t want to pay his $9MM-$10MM asking price, Sherman writes. There’s concern that Drew’s poor 2014 season marks the beginning of a serious decline. “Fine, you want to say June and July [last year] were spring training for him, well, how about August or September? There was never a time in which he looked like a major league hitter,” says one executive. The Yankees could have interest in him, but want to commit to Didi Gregorius at shortstop and could have concern Drew would provide an easy distraction from those plans, even if he’s signed as a second baseman. Earlier this month, we guessed Drew would get a one-year, $7MM deal.
- The Royals signed Alex Rios this offseason even though Rios rejected a trade to Kansas City last summer, Sherman says. The Rangers tried to trade Rios to the Royals, but Rios requested that Kansas City exercise his 2015 option as a condition of the deal. The Royals said no, so Rios used his no-trade clause to stop the trade. Rios thus spent the entire season with the Rangers, refusing a chance to join a team in the midst of a playoff race.
- There have already been rumors of the Padres trading Wil Myers to Philadelphia in a Cole Hamels deal, and Sherman writes that San Diego would, in fact, consider dealing Myers, who they might feel isn’t good enough defensively to handle center field.
FRIDAY, 2:05pm: The Royals officially announced their deal with Rios, which includes a mutual option for 2016. That is worth $12.5MM, tweets Chris Cotillo of SB Nation.
MONDAY, 7:10pm: The Royals have agreed to a one-year, $11MM deal with outfielder Alex Rios, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports on Twitter. Rios, a Boras Corporation client, joins Kendrys Morales as veteran additions to the defending American League champs.
The 33-year-old Rios spent 2014 with the Rangers, slashing .280/.311/.398 with four home runs 17 stolen bases (being caught nine times in the process). That production landed just below league average, one year after Rios put up a .278/.324/.432 line that rated slightly above the league baseline. Of course, he also swatted 18 long balls and stole 42 bags that season (split between the White Sox and Rangers).
Now another year removed from his excellent 2012 campaign, Rios also slid in the baserunning and defensive departments, leaving him valued at just .2 fWAR and .6 rWAR in his 521 plate appearances. A thumb issue ended Rios’s season early and cast at least some slight doubt on his health going forward, though Rios has been a remarkably sturdy ballplayer over his long career.
Kansas City now has its replacement for Nori Aoki in right field, where Rios has spent most of his career. Both players are similarly aged, but the former is probably a safer option going forward with his consistent on-base ability. Of course, Aoki cannot match the ceiling of Rios, who was worth better than four wins above replacement in recent memory. The club spent a fairly significant sum to take a chance on Rios, going well above the $8.5MM that MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes predicted he would land.
Rios joins a recent group of corner outfielders departing the market, leaving players like Michael Morse, Colby Rasmus, and Aoki as the best players available. Of course, that could add impetus to the trade market, which features a number of big names.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Images.
Here’s the latest from the American League:
- With Melky Cabrera off the board, Alex Rios remains on the Mariners‘ radar, tweets Bob Dutton of The News Tribune. Cabrera agreed to a three-year contract with the White Sox yesterday, which should pay him roughly $14-$14.5MM per season.
- MLB.com’s Greg Johns entertains other scenarios (both external and internal) in which the Mariners can fill their vacancy in right field.
- The Rangers have $10-12MM in financial flexibility remaining; but, because of the health questions surrounding their core players, they could sit on that cash until midseason when they will have had time to gauge what kind of team they really have, according to Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News.
- Cleveland.com’s Paul Hoynes wonders if Indians outfielder David Murphy is more of a platoon player at this stage of his career and believes a reader’s proposed trade of Murphy to the Mets for Ohio native Jon Niese would favor the Indians.
- The White Sox have filled many holes with their high-profile acquisitions this offseason, but right field, second base, third base, and catcher remain areas of concern, opines Jim Margalus of South Side Sox.
- The Twins have invested heavily in the free agent market this offseason and last because payroll was shed and there’s optimism over the performance of Minnesota’s young core, writes 1500ESPN.com’s Phil Mackey.
The Tigers didn’t trade Rick Porcello to the Red Sox due to a lack of progress in extension talks, Porcello’s agent Jim Murray tells FOX Sports’ Jon Morosi. The two sides “briefly discussed” extending Porcello’s contract beyond the 2015 season, Murray said, “but it was more in the context of something both parties may or may not talk about in the future.” Here’s some more from around the AL Central…
- Though Scott Boras has openly said the Tigers won’t get a chance to match an opposing team’s final offer for Max Scherzer, an industry source tells MLB.com’s Jason Beck that the agent will indeed give Tigers owner Mike Ilitch a chance to match “at least as a professional courtesy.” The good relationship between Boras and Ilitch has paved the way for several Boras clients to come to Detroit, perhaps most notably Prince Fielder in the 2011-12 offseason.
- Also from Beck, he passes along comments from Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski reiterating that nothing has changed between Detroit and Scherzer. “I guess anything can happen but we’re not in active pursuit at this time. We’re happy with our starting pitching,” Dombrowski said. “Again, we love him, but as I said at the time, we were the sole club that could sign him last spring. It didn’t work. I don’t think our odds improve with 29 other clubs that could potentially try to sign him.”
- Melky Cabrera is still the Royals‘ top choice to fill their hole in the outfield, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman tweets. If Cabrera can’t be signed, K.C. has such options as Nori Aoki, Colby Rasmus or Alex Rios as fallback options.
- The vesting option on Ervin Santana‘s four-year contract with the Twins will require more than just 200 IP from the righty in 2018 to guarantee his 2019 season, a source tells Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press (Twitter link).
- The Twins haven’t discussed extensions with Phil Hughes, Brian Dozier or Trevor Plouffe yet this offseason, Mike Berardino reports (via Twitter). Berardino suggests that talks could wait until January. The three players have very different contract situations — Dozier isn’t arbitration-eligible until next winter, Plouffe is projected to earn $4.3MM in his second of four arb years as a Super Two player and Hughes still has two seasons remaining on the three-year, $24MM deal he signed last winter. Of the three, Hughes would clearly be the most expensive to extend given his tremendous 2014 campaign.
Here’s the latest on the Mariners heading out of the Winter Meetings, courtesy of Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune:
- The Mariners and Melky Cabrera seem to have staked out their positions, with Cabrera after five years and upwards of $60MM and the M’s not willing to go past three and around $42MM.
- Seattle is increasingly looking at other possibilities, though the idea of a Dayan Viciedo trade was downplayed by Dutton’s sources. The team does have interest in Alex Rios, though he seems to be waiting out other market moves.
- The M’s still have interest in Justin Upton, but do not want to meet the Braves’ asking price. Meanwhile, the team is “cool” at present to the idea of dealing for Ian Desmond.
- One alternative trade candidate is Seth Smith of the Padres, though Dutton notes that he would not be optimal since he swings from the left side.
With the Winter Meetings nearly upon us, ESPN’s Jayson Stark spoke to nine baseball executives regarding the “Big Three” starting pitchers on this year’s free agent market — Max Scherzer, Jon Lester and James Shields — and asked when and where they will sign. While answers as to when Scherzer will sign varied, there was a much tighter window on Lester, with all nine believing he will sign between Dec. 8 and Dec. 13. The execs polled by Stark feel that Shields’ market is tied so closely to Lester that he will sign within two weeks of Lester and perhaps even as soon as next week’s Winter Meetings. Many identified Shields as a fallback for teams that miss on Lester. Execs picked Lester to sign with the usual suspects at this point: the Red Sox, Cubs, Giants or Dodgers. Interestingly, Scherzer’s landing spot was predicted to be the Yankees, Nationals, Cubs or Tigers, by the five who were willing to wager a guess on that outcome.
A few more notes pertaining to free agency…
- The Mariners, Royals, and Indians have all checked in on Alex Rios, tweets Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. Rios, who joined the Boras Corporation earlier this offseason, has had a fairly quiet market to this point, though one would expect interest to pick up now that Nelson Cruz, Torii Hunter and Yasmany Tomas are off the market.
- The Royals are looking for a right fielder and a starting pitcher but likely only have the available funds to make a “significant” investment in one of the two areas, tweets ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick. The Royals may have to bargain shop for the other, he notes. Kansas City has invested a modest amount of its available funds to the bullpen in the past week, re-signing righties Jason Frasor and Luke Hochevar. However, it’s at least worth noting that Hochevar’s contract reportedly contains performance incentives tied to starting (though it also contains relief incentives).
- Though the Mets are in need of a shortstop, ESPN New York’s Adam Rubin writes that recently non-tendered Padres speedster Everth Cabrera is not a consideration. Though he’s talented and has twice led the NL in stolen bases, Cabrera has a good deal of off-field issues on his record, including a 50-game PED suspension and more recent legal issues, as he’s been charged with resisting arrest after being stopped for suspicion of driving under the influence of marijuana. (Cabrera plead not guilty to those charges today, per the San Diego Union-Tribune’s Jeff Sanders.)
- Lefty reliever Craig Breslow is drawing significant interest, but his timetable to sign is currently dependent on the rest of the relief market, tweets WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford. Breslow is coming off a down season but has a strong track record. Interest in Breslow and other relievers could intensify now that Andrew Miller is off the board, I would think.
- Though the Astros missed out on Miller even after offering him more money than the Yankees did, they’re still on the hunt for relievers, tweets Heyman. Houston remains interested in David Robertson, Sergio Romo and others.
Earlier today, news broke that the Mariners and Nelson Cruz had agreed to a four-year deal. While some assumed that he would serve in an outfield capacity, Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune reports that the M’s prefer to use Cruz in a DH role and will still seek a right fielder from outside the organization. According to Dutton, two possibilities are free agents Torii Hunter and Alex Rios.
Dutton also reports that the Mariners still have interest in acquiring Matt Kemp from the Dodgers, but those talks have stalled due to Los Angeles’ insistence that one of Taijuan Walker or James Paxton be included in the deal. Additionally, he adds, the Orioles have shown increased interest in Kemp, presenting Seattle with competition to acquire his services.
One player whose name has surfaced in trade speculation is right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma, as many feel he could be a fit for the Red Sox in a potential swap for Yoenis Cespedes. However, ESPN’s Jayson Stark hears that Iwakuma is firmly unavailable, as the Mariners are looking to add to the club rather than subtract (Twitter link).
The Mariners feel they have the payroll flexibility to add Kemp (and thereby Hunter or Rios as well, of course) even after signing Cruz and working out a seven-year, $100MM extension for Kyle Seager. Kemp is owed $107MM over the next five seasons — a hefty investment for a power bat whose defensive skills appear to be diminishing as well.
Dutton’s report makes no mention of Justin Upton, although it would stand to reason that if Kemp is still in play, there would be continued interest in Upton as well, to whom the Mariners have been linked on multiple occasions. However, as Andy Martino of the New York Daily News tweeted after Cruz’s agreement, the Braves “almost certainly” would ask for Walker in exchange for Upton, so Seattle’s interest there figures to be limited until the asking price changes.
Both Hunter and Rios would provide a veteran right-handed bat to bring further balance to a lineup that was extremely left-handed in 2014. Hunter has recently been said to be considering the Mariners as well as the Rangers, Orioles, Royals and, to a lesser extent, the Twins. Rios, meanwhile, has yet to see his name surface in too many rumors, perhaps due to a down season at the plate (.280/.311/.398). The Mariners were said to consider him a fallback option earlier this month. Should the Mariners think on a larger scale, Melky Cabrera remains a free agent, and the price for parting with him is now slightly diminished, as Seattle would only need part with its second pick after forfeiting the No. 19 pick to sign Cruz.
In addition to the names listed, the Mariners do have a fairly strong in-house candidate in the form of Michael Saunders. However, Saunders is a left-handed bat and his relationship with the organization was strained after some postseason comments from GM Jack Zduriencik and manager Lloyd McClendon. The Mariners were said to be shopping Saunders as recently as last month’s GM Meetings, and those talks could of course be revisited at next week’s Winter Meetings.
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.