Alex Rios Rumors

Pirates Targeting Rios; May Have Interest In Ramirez

The Pirates own the second-best record in all of baseball but find themselves in second place in their own division thanks to the Cardinals. Seeking to bolster their lineup for the season's second half, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reports that GM Neal Huntington has his sights set on Alex Rios and may be interested in Alexei Ramirez as well.

Pirates right fielders have combined to hit .235/.309/.394 this season and played below replacement level as a whole, according to Fangraphs, thanks to poor defense and baserunning. Rios would obviously serve as a massive upgrade for the final two and a half months, as he's hitting .270/.326/.429 with strong defense and baserunning. However, as Heyman notes, the $18MM that he is guaranteed through next season is steep for the Pirates, who opened the season with a payroll just under $67MM.

Ramirez is also costly, as he's owed $23MM through the 2015 season. He's hitting .286/.311/.358 with 20 stolen bases, and advanced metrics like Ultimate Zone Rating love his range at shortstop. Jordy Mercer took over as Pittsburgh's starting shortstop recently, but he's hitting just .188/.246/.188 over his past 18 games and doesn't have much of a track record.

To this point, the White Sox have been "extremely disappointed" in the offers they've received for Rios, but the Pirates have a deep farm system that ranked seventh in baseball prior to the season, according to Baseball America. It stands to reason that the Pirates could put together an enticing offer, especially if White Sox GM Rick Hahn agrees to include cash to help facilitate a deal. The Buccos are not one of the six teams on Rios' no-trade list.


AL West Notes: Vargas, Burnett, Mariners, Rangers

We're less than two weeks away from the non-waiver trade deadline, and with the rumor mill heating up, here's the latest out of the AL West…

  • Angels lefties Jason Vargas and Sean Burnett aren't likely to return before the trade deadline, tweets Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com. The duo could return shortly after July 31, however. Both southpaws would have been attractive July trading chips, as Vargas is a free agent at season's end, and Burnett is on the first year of an affordable two-year, $8MM contract.
  • Larry Stone of the Seattle Times writes that Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik and manager Eric Wedge are in a tricky position. The duo will likely be judged based on the team's record, which would be better if they hang onto Kendrys Morales, Joe Saunders, Raul Ibanez and the rest of the team's trade chips. However, that also does little to build for the future, leading Stone to say that they could be in a lose-lose situation.
  • In addition to their talks with the Cubs regarding Matt Garza, the Rangers are also seeking a right-handed bat, GM Jon Daniels told reporters today (including Todd Wills of ESPNDallas.com). Alex Rios and Alfonso Soriano "have been mentioned as possible acquisitions," according to Wills, who adds that the Rangers aren't yet ready to give Manny Ramirez a chance at the big league level.
  • From that same piece, Daniels adds that the Rangers aren't panicking over Nelson Cruz's connection to the Biogenesis scandal.

Bowden’s Latest: Garza, Rox, Rios, Morneau, Perkins

The trade deadline is just two weeks away, and with the All-Star Game in the rear-view mirror, Jim Bowden of ESPN and MLB Network Radio writes that the market will pick up rapidly beginning Friday. Here are some highlights from the highly informative article penned by the former GM of the Reds, Expos and Nationals (ESPN Insider required and recommended)…

  • Bowden hears there's an 80 percent chance that Matt Garza will be traded before his next scheduled start (Monday or Tuesday of next week). The Rangers, Red Sox and Diamondbacks are still involved, He describes the D-backs as "dark horses," adding that their odds in the Garza sweepstakes would increase if they were willing to part with left-hander David Holmberg.
  • The Rockies could also be interested in Garza, but they're not clear-cut buyers right now, and the prospective cost is prohibitive to them. If they were to sell, Rafael Betancourt and Matt Belisle could be had. Michael Cuddyer could be moved, but only if Colorado is "blown away."
  • The White Sox have been "extremely disappointed" with offers for Alex Rios thus far. Bowden feels that offers will improve as the deadline draws closer.
  • The Justin Morneau era in Minnesota is coming to an end, and the Twins are prepared to trade the former MVP, according to Bowden. The Rays, Pirates and Yankees are said by Bowden to be possible destinations for Morneau.
  • The Cardinals, Reds, Dodgers and Braves have all inquired on Twins closer Glen Perkins and been turned away. Those four teams are all monitoring the health of Jesse Crain as well.
  • The Yankees are trying to use Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain and catching prospect J.R. Murphy to acquire a bat but have had no luck thus far. None of those players figure to interest the Twins in regards to Morneau, Bowden adds, given the impending free agency of Hughes and Chamberlain and the presence of Joe Mauer behind the plate for the Twins.


Quick Hits: Wilpon, Rios, Mozeliak, Blue Jays

National League All-Star starter Matt Harvey has become a well-known name around baseball…though not necessarily a well-known face.  Harvey personally explored his relative anonymity in a comedy bit tonight on The Late Show With Jimmy Fallon (YouTube link).  If it makes Harvey feel better, I rarely hear, "Hey, are you Mark Polishuk from MLB Trade Rumors?!" when I'm strolling around New York.  Here's some news from around baseball on the eve of the All-Star Game…

  • Jeff Wilpon promised that the Mets are willing to spend in 2014, the team COO said in an interview on WFAN radio (and partially transcribed by Newsday's Neil Best).  The Mets will be helped when the Johan Santana and Jason Bay contracts expire this winter, which will by themselves free up $43.625MM in payroll space.  "We haven't set a payroll for next year, but I can tell you we're ready to invest with those big contracts coming off the books," Wilpon said. "We have the money to invest. We're going to invest it prudently. Sandy [Alderson] is going to set a path."
  • The Rangers could avoid giving up top prospects for White Sox right fielder Alex Rios, depending on how much of Rios' contract Texas is willing to eat, ESPN Dallas' Richard Durrett writes.  Rios is owed roughly $4.85MM for the rest of 2013, $12.5MM in 2014 and a $13.5MM club option for 2015 that can be bought out for $1MM.  The Rangers are one of several teams interested in acquiring Rios, though his trade stock has dipped due to a six-week slump.
  • A lot of teams you think might normally would be breaking things up aren’t,” Cardinals GM John Mozeliak told Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “There just aren’t a lot of players that are truly available. That could change. That’s my observation today.”  The Cardinals are known to be interested in acquiring starting pitching and have recently been connected to Matt Garza, though the Cards aren't too keen to trade within the NL Central and are unlikely to make a deal that would cost them one of their top prospects.
  • Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion and Brett Cecil all tell Sportsnet's Shi Davidi that the Blue Jays already have the talent to turn their season around.  Bautista, for one, doesn't think GM Alex Anthopoulos necessarily needs to make any further roster additions.  “Alex is not out on the field playing for us, we’re totally capable of playing a lot better baseball than we’ve shown, we just need to play better as a team,” Bautista said.  If the Jays don't make any moves, Bautista "wouldn’t look too much into it" since Anthopoulos “made plenty of moves in the off-season to make our team the best team that he could put on the field.”
  • The three prospects acquired by the Nationals in the Michael Morse trade have performed well for Washington thus far, MASNsports.com's Byron Kerr observes.  Right-handers A.J. Cole and Blake Treinen have pitched well at high A-ball and Double-A, respectively, while southpaw Ian Krol reached the Majors and delivered a 1.80 ERA, 13 strikeouts and just one walk over 15 relief innings for the Nats.
  • Chase Lambin turned 34 years last week and has played 12 years of professional baseball in the minors and in Japan, but the veteran has still yet to reach the Major Leagues.  Kent Babb of the Washington Post profiles Lambin, who currently plays for the Royals' Triple-A affiliate.
  • The Mets' infamous long-long-term deferred contract with Bobby Bonilla is actually a pair of contracts that will pay the retired slugger $42MM between 2004 and 2035, CBS Sports' Jon Heyman reports.  While the Orioles are paying part of Bonilla's ongoing salary, the Mets are solely responsible for another 25-year deferred payment plan, this one to Bret Saberhagen.  The former two-time Cy Young Award winner has received $250K per year from the Mets since 2004.

NL Notes: Garza, Schierholtz, Pirates, Revere

With today's earlier notes on the division and several relevant bullets from our most recent post, the National League Central continues to be busy. We've also seen another trade deadline hotspot develop in the NL East. Let's look at the latest: 

  • With Matt Garza taking the hill for the Cubs tonight, ESPN.com's Buster Olney tweets that it is looking increasingly likely that it will be his last time doing so. Olney writes that Chicago is making progress in trade talks with at least two teams, and could be in position to complete a trade over the All-Star break.
  • Another piece of Cubs trade bait, outfielder Nate Schierholtz, is expected to get a few days off for general wear and tear. According to FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal (Twitter link), the ambiguous reasoning for the time off has led some scouts to suggest that Chicago could be shelving Schierholtz in anticipation of a trade.
  • One team that could be in on the Cubs' outfielder is the division-rival Pirates, reports Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. With Pittsburgh failing to receive adequate production from the right field position, Biertempfel says that multiple sources tell him that the team is looking closely at both Schierholtz and White Sox outfielder Alex Rios.  
  • Everyone's favorite buying/selling fence-straddlers, the Phillies, have suffered a major blow to the team's 2013 chances with the team reporting that center fielder Ben Revere has suffered a broken foot. (Twitter links.) While the full severity is not yet known, Revere is set to see a specialist on Monday and a relatively prolonged absence seems inevitable. With some already wondering whether Ryan Howard's knee surgery could drive the Phils to sell, the loss of Revere — who had emerged as a major contributor over the last few months — can only increase that likelihood. MLBTR's Aaron Steen took a look at the Phils' decision-making process last night, before Revere came up hurt. 

AL Notes: White Sox, Rangers, Angels

White Sox manager Robin Ventura thinks Alex Rios' anxiety about a possible trade may be a cause of his recent slump, Dan Hayes of CSNChicago.com reports. "He’s not squaring it up as much. He’s staying in the middle of the field," says Ventura. "Probably a little of all the rumors going around. That does affect people in certain ways. I don’t know if that’s him, but it’s probably leading to it." Rios, however, denies that trade rumors have an effect. "At this point, we shouldn’t be worried about what’s going to happen because you just can’t control it," he says. In mid-May, MLBTR's Jeff Todd profiled Rios' trade value, although Rios' poor hitting since then (he had a .643 OPS in June and a .579 OPS so far in July) may affect his trade outlook. Here are more notes from around the American League.

  • The White Sox hope their upcoming game against the Cubs on Monday (which will feature the Cubs' Matt Garza, himself a trade candidate) will provide a good opportunity to showcase their players, Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune reports. He notes that the Rangers, in particular, have been watching the Sox recently.
  • The Rangers' placement of Nick Tepesch and Lance Berkman on the disabled list on Sunday shows their need to acquire a starting pitcher and a hitter at the trade deadline, Jon Morosi of FOX Sports tweets.
  • Angels GM Jerry DiPoto does not sound like he plans to make big moves at this month's trade deadline, Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times reports. "You’re always looking for ways to get better, to maybe find some smaller pieces to contribute, but the high-profile moves? I wouldn’t suspect that we’re looking for those," says DiPoto. DiGiovanna points out that the Angels could benefit from the returns of Jason Vargas, Tommy Hanson and Sean Burnett from the disabled list.

Alex Rios’ No-Trade List

The seven-year, $69.835MM extension that Alex Rios signed with the Blue Jays back in 2008 didn't initially contain no-trade protection, but a limited no-trade clause allowing Rios to block trades to six teams kicked in starting in 2009. Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune reports that the six teams to which Rios can block a trade are the Yankees, Diamondbacks, Rockies, Royals, Astros and Athletics.

The Rockies, Diamondbacks and A's are likely set on outfielders, and the Astros certainly aren't looking to buy at this time. However, the no-trade protection against the Yankees and (to a lesser extent) the Royals is significant, as both teams would make sense as suitors for Rios.

The struggling Yankees scored fewer runs than any team in baseball last month (88) and have a dearth of right-handed power. Offense is said to be New York's primary need in trades. The Royals opened the season with Jeff Francoeur in right field but have since designated him for assignment. Recent reports did state that the chances of Kansas City making a big move were "slim," and David Lough has played well in place of Francoeur.


Rangers, D’Backs, Giants Scouting Alex Rios

White Sox outfielder Alex Rios is drawing interest from several teams as the trade deadline approaches, and the Rangers, Diamondbacks and Giants are a few of the clubs scouting the veteran, industry sources tell ESPN Chicago's Bruce Levine.  Rios heard about the Rangers' interest first-hand from former teammate and current Texas catcher A.J. Pierzynski.

"A.J. contacted me the other day and said his team was talking about trying to get me,” Rios said. “All players want to be on a winner and in our situation it has been tough to win. I love it here in Chicago and so does my family but this is the time of year teams make these decisions. We have put ourselves in that position.”

Rios has a limited no-trade clause that allows him to block deals to six teams.  The right fielder said his preference would be to remain in Chicago but "if they give me a choice I will have to weigh my options.”  Levine opines that if Rios if presented with a deal to a contending team, he will waive his no-trade clause.

It was reported earlier this week that the White Sox are willing to consider dealing anyone besides Chris Sale and Paul Konerko, and Rios stands out as one of the more attractive options on the Chicago roster.  Rios entered Sunday's action hitting .272/.331/.450 with 11 homers and 14 steals in 327 PA.  The 32-year-old is owed roughly $19.75MM through the end of the 2014 season (which includes a total $1MM salary bump for being dealt before Spring Training 2014), and his contract also includes a $13.5MM club option for 2015 that can be bought out for $1MM.

The Rangers' outfield recently lost Craig Gentry to a fractured hand, and the remaining starters carry a number of question marks.  David Murphy is struggling, Leonys Martin is only suited to play against right-handed pitching and Nelson Cruz could face a suspension for his role in the Biogenesis scandal.

Gerardo Parra is the only solid everyday outfield option in Arizona, as Cody Ross (.669 OPS), A.J. Pollock (.700 OPS) and Jason Kubel (.715 OPS) have all yet to catch fire at the plate.  Rookie Adam Eaton has missed the entire season with an elbow injury and could finally reach the Majors after the All-Star break, though the D'Backs would likely want a more proven veteran option to help them in their NL West pennant drive.

Though Rios hasn't played center field since 2011, the Giants could use him at that position to replace the injured Angel Pagan.  The World Series champs are rumored to be looking for a right-handed hitting outfielder, though GM Brian Sabean recently said that it was too early for his club to make a major trade.


White Sox Ready To Sell; Won’t Trade Sale Or Konerko

We heard last week that the White Sox had begun to receive calls on their veteran players. Now, rival executives tell Jon Heyman of CBS Sports that the ChiSox are "open for business" and willing to discuss anyone on their roster with the exception of Chris Sale and Paul Konerko.

That means that even John Danks, who just last year signed a five-year, $65MM extension with the Sox, could be had in the right deal. The team also has desirable trade chips like Alex Rios, Alexei Ramirez, Jesse Crain, Matt Lindstrom, Matt Thornton and Jake Peavy (though he's currently on the DL). Heyman also adds that Jeff Keppinger's name has already come up in conversations, despite the fact that he signed a three-year deal just this past offseason.

Not surprisingly, one executive told Heyman that Adam Dunn will be difficult to move. Dunn is owed $15MM in 2014 and is hitting .194/.303/.460 this season. Another said that Peavy will be tough to find a match for as well. The White Sox will have a high asking price on their co-ace, but teams won't have much time to determine if he's truly healthy.

Another executive told Heyman that the Mets could look at Ramirez as a potential long-term option at shortstop. While he's not hitting for power anymore, Ramirez is batting .280/.308/.345 with 18 stolen bases and outstanding defense, according to advanced metrics like UZR and DRS. He's owed $10MM in 2014 and has a $10MM club option for 2015 on his contract as well.


White Sox Getting Calls On Veterans

We learned earlier today that the Cubs are "open for business" and ready to sell, and it sounds like Chicago's other team may not be far behind. Jon Heyman of CBS Sports spoke with White Sox GM Rick Hahn recently, who confirmed that other teams have begun to express interest in his players:

"We are getting phone calls, and they will probably become a little bit more voluminous if we don't turn it around pretty quickly," White Sox general manager Rick Hahn said.

Heyman's sources indicate that Alex Rios and Alexei Ramirez will at least be discussed, with one rival general manager telling him that Rios will draw more interest. Rios,32, is owed $12.5MM in 2014, the final guaranteed year of his contract, though his deal contains a club option as well. Ramirez, 31, is controlled through 2015 and owed $9.5MM in 2014, $10MM in 2015 and has a $1MM buyout on his $10MM club option for 2016.

Heyman also speculates that names such as Jake Peavy, Jesse Crain, Matt Thornton, Matt Lindstrom and perhaps even Gordon Beckham will become available if the White Sox do indeed take the position of sellers this July. Crain, of course, is on a historic run, having fired 28 shutout innings over his past 28 appearances with a 37-to-7 K/BB ratio in that time.