Alex Rios Rumors

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.


Trade Candidate: Alex Rios

The ups and downs of the White Sox and their now long-tenured outfielder Alex Rios, 32, have been well documented. The Sox originally acquired Rios in August of 2009 as a waiver claim from the Blue Jays, not even two years after Toronto signed him to a seven-year, $69.835MM extension that included a club option for 2015 at $13.5MM.

While Rios was just 28 at the time and had already put up three stellar seasons with the Jays, his abysmal 2009 season already had many labeling the contract as one of the worst in baseball. In the midst of a playoff race, though, Chicago decided to roll the dice. At the time, then-White Sox GM Kenny Williams acknowledged that the team went "out on a limb a little bit" by nabbing Rios, but said the team "had targeted him as the guy who would not only help us here in our quest for a division but in future seasons as well." Rios was even worse in Chicago than in Toronto that year, however, and the team ended with a losing record.

After a more promising 2010, Rios imploded in 2011, slashing just .227/.265/.348 in 570 painful plate appearances. He also saw his counting statistics plummet, as he logged just 13 home runs (after 21 in 2010) and 11 stolen bases (against 34 in 2010). Just when Rios seemed a complete bust, though, he rebounded in 2012 with a .304/.334/.516 line to go with 25 long balls and 23 swipes. He has continued that pace this season, slashing .281/.348/.516 over his first 141 plate appearances. 

Meanwhile, for the White Sox, a relatively promising 2012 campaign has not carried over to the current season. The club sits in last place in the AL Central, six games back of the Tigers. And there is not much reason for optimism, as the Sox project as one of the worst teams in the American League over the rest of the year. Should the team look to move salary and replenish its lowly farm system (ESPN Insider link), Rios could be an interesting trade chip.

At this point, Rios's contract looks very appealing for a player with his current level of performance. He was worth 4.1 wins above replacement last year according to Fangraphs, and as noted has continued to hit. Meanwhile, he is owed just $12.5MM for 2014. (The deal does include an escalator that would bump that figure to $13MM if he is traded before the start of the 2014 season.) And Rios's 2015 option offers a nice risk-reward proposition: it could be cheap if he keeps performing, but would protect an acquiring team's downside because it comes with a minimal $1MM buyout. While the 2011 disaster will no doubt weigh heavily on the mind of a team looking at Rios, it is worth noting that he posted a .237 BABIP that year that was dramatically worse than his career .308 mark. 

Rios could appeal to a relatively wide range of teams, potentially increasing his trade value, although the market could be impacted by his six-team no-trade clause. Indeed, Bill Madden of the New York Daily News exhorted the Mets to take a hard look at Rios in spite of the fact that the team is looking unlikely to make a postseason run. While his play has certainly seen its ups and downs, Rios has demonstrated this year that he is still physically capable of delivering a strong blend of power and speed. And with a contract that offers multi-year control without a major commitment, along with the flexibility and upside of the 2015 option, Rios could appeal to teams that are seeking both future and present value at the trade deadline.



Chicago Notes: Youkilis, Pierzynski, Samardzija, Haren

Here's the latest out of the Windy City from both the White Sox and the Cubs…

  • The Sox are talking to Kevin Youkilis about returning to fill their hole at third base, tweets Jon Heyman of CBS Sports.  The Phillies and Indians are also in the mix for Youkilis, who had his $13MM option for 2013 bought out by the White Sox for $1MM.
  • Four rival executives name Gordon Beckham, Alejandro De Aza, Gavin Floyd and Dayan Viciedo as players the White Sox would be open to trading, reports Dan Hayes of CSNChicago.com.  If the Sox were looking for salary relief, two executives say that trading Alex Rios and the $26MM remaining on his contract will be much easier after Rios' strong 2012 season, though neither exec is certain that Rios is available. 
  • A.J. Pierzynski tells Dan Hayes that he is much more prepared for free agency now than he was in 2010.  Pierzynski said he would like to return to the White Sox or possibly play for the Rays in his home state of Florida, though his childhood dream of playing for the Braves is unlikely with Brian McCann on board.
  • The Cubs have reached out to Jeff Samardzija about a multiyear extension, reports Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times.  Samardzija, who enjoyed a breakout year in 2012 in his first season as a starting pitcher, is arb-eligible for the first time this winter and is under team control through 2015.
  • The proposed trade between the Angels and Cubs and would've brought Dan Haren to Chicago indeed fell through due to the Cubs' concerns about Haren's recent injury history, reports CSNChicago.com's David Kaplan.
  • Haren denied that he was injured in an e-mail to Mike DiGiovanna of the L.A. Times.  “I’ve never missed any time because of injury other than the three weeks this year because of my back," Haren said.  "When I came back, I had to be cleared by doctors, so obviously, I was healthy." 

Rosenthal On Playoff Format, Hunter, White Sox, Rays

How long will the Wild Card playoff format be a one-game elimination? The running gag among baseball executives, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com, is until the Yankees are eliminated in a such fashion. That possibility is looming larger as the Yankees and Orioles are tied for the AL East lead with four games to play. The Yankees currently have a one-game lead over the A's in the Wild Card race. However, if the two teams finished with identical records, the Yankees would have to travel to Oakland because they tied in the season series and the A’s currently own the next tiebreaker – a superior record within their own division. It will make for an interesting finish to the season. Also from Rosenthal's column:

  • In response to the likelihood the two AL Wild Card teams will have a better record than the AL Central Division champion, Rosenthal suggests the playoff qualifiers with the two worst records meet in the Wild Card game. Rosenthal admits winning a weak division would be less meaningful, but such a team hardly would be in position to argue since it would be lucky to reach the playoffs in the first place.
  • Angels owner Arte Moreno recently acknowledged the fans' desire for the team to re-sign Torii Hunter, but Rosenthal says he may have competition from a division rival. The Rangers have long had interest in Hunter, who lives in a Dallas suburb. With Josh Hamilton and Mike Napoli free agents this winter and Nelson Cruz a free agent next offseason, the team almost certainly will look for offensive help. Rosenthal believes a trade for a younger slugger such as Arizona's Justin Upton is more likely than a short-term signing of Hunter. But at the very least, the Rangers could pursue Hunter to drive up the price for the Angels.
  • Despite the recent slump that may cost the White Sox a playoff berth, Rosenthal claims this has been a successful season for the South Siders. Rosenthal points to highlights like Robin Ventura establishing himself as a manager, Chris Sale developing into an ace, a number of rookie pitchers emerging as valuable parts, and bounce back seasons from Adam Dunn, Alex Rios, and Jake Peavy
  • Rosenthal credits the Rays' recent resurgence to manager Joe Maddon's decision to make batting practice optional and allow players to arrive at the park later, which resulted in the players becoming more relaxed.

How Reasonable Are Jeff Francoeur’s Demands?

In a move that has amused those who follow the New York Mets closely, Jeff Francoeur has gone public with his demands to be traded following New York's decision to platoon him with young outfielder Fernando Martinez.

Despite a season line of .241/.294/.385, Francoeur apparently believes a major league team would play him regularly at a position, right field, that averages production of .271/.344/.447. Indeed, Francoeur's line is well below the MLB average at second base (.266/.331/.393).

But we have yet to see how Francoeur's demand for a trade stands up to history. It isn't easy to find comparable performance among right fielders in recent years, and it's even harder to find any who were traded after performing as poorly as Francoeur.

Since 2000, just 31 of the 165 right fielders to amass at least 300 plate appearances posted an OPS+ below 100. Of those 31, only four checked in lower than Francoeur's 2010 OPS+ mark of 82: Richard Hidalgo's 2005 (81), Jeromy Burnitz's 2002 (80), Austin Kearns' 2008 (67) and Jeff Francoeur's own 2008 (72).

Kearns followed his 2008 with a similarly poor 2009 before the Nationals let him walk after last season. Burnitz followed 2002 with a half-season of a 139 OPS+ for the 2003 Mets, earning a trade to Los Angeles for Kole Strayhorn, Jose Diaz and Victor Diaz. Hidalgo never played in the majors again, and Francoeur followed his 2008 with a half-season of 68 OPS+ hitting in 2009, earning a trade to the Mets for Ryan Church.

In other words Jeff Francoeur is the only one from that group to be traded for anything at all. Incidentally, four of the 31 player seasons in right field below 100 OPS+ are from Francoeur. Only three others are on the list more than once: Juan Encarnacion (three times), Alex Rios (twice), Hidalgo (twice) and Burnitz (twice).

Encarnacion is an instructive comparison. His career OPS+ of 97 is better than, but similar to, Francoeur's 91. Encarnacion had additional value because he lacked a platoon split (amazingly, his OPS against both lefties and righties was .758) and had the ability to play center field.

In the middle of an 84 OPS+ season in 2004 at age 28, a year after he posted a 97 OPS+, the Marlins acquired Encarnacion as part of a six-player deal from the Dodgers. He went on to start 46 of Florida's remaining 58 games. His salary ($3.6MM) was roughly equivalent to the $5MM Francoeur earns in 2010.

So there is precedent. It happened one other time.

Among those under 100 OPS+ in right field, Alex Rios had a 96 OPS+ last year when the White Sox took him from the Blue Jays and agreed to pay his entire salary (at $61MM, many times as much as remains on Francoeur's deal). But Rios had three seasons of 120, 122 and 112 OPS+ in 2006-2008 under his belt, success Francoeur hasn't seen since his half-season debut in 2005.

Overwhelmingly, the players performing as poorly as Francoeur, or even demonstrably better, are simply let go, often never to surface again. Trot Nixon's 96 OPS+ in 2006 represented his last season as a regular player. So did Danny Bautista's 85 in 2004 and Derek Bell's 98 in 2000. Jose Guillen's 89 in 2000 got him sent back to the minor leagues by Tampa Bay, then released.

There's also that pesky question: who would Francoeur replace in another team's regular lineup? Of the 20 right fielders in MLB who have played more than half their games in right field this year, Francoeur ranks dead last in OPS+ with 82. The four closest to him? Jay Bruce (96), Ben Zobrist (98), Hunter Pence (102) and Ichiro Suzuki (107). It is safe to say Francoeur won't be replacing any of those players. He'd make a decent platoon partner with Bruce, but… right. Platooning led Francoeur to demand a trade in the first place.

In short, the answer to the title of this piece is: not reasonable at all. Not reasonable in light of his 2010 performance, not reasonable in terms of other right fielders, not reasonable comparatively through recent history.


Odds & Ends: Strasburg, Ruiz, Millwood, Crawford

Links for Wednesday, as we make sense of Angel Pagan's unbelievable night


Odds & Ends: Valverde, Gardner, Wells

Rounding up some news from around the majors on this Tuesday night….

  • MLB.com's Jason Beck cites a report from an unnamed radio station which states the Tigers' offer to Jose Valverde is for two years.  In another piece, Beck calls Detroit "the most logical destination" for Valverde.
  • Brett Gardner has two backers (sort of) in Anthony McCarron of the New York Daily News and ESPN's Keith Law.  McCarron would like to see the Yankees acquire a "get-the-uniform-dirty type" but thinks Gardner should get "a real chance" to play every day.  Law would let Gardner start the season because he feels that potential signings Reed Johnson or Xavier Nady are "marginal improvements that may not justify the cost."
  • Jordan Bastian of MLB.com says the Blue Jays aren't thinking of moving Vernon Wells to a corner outfield spot in spite of Wells' declining UZR numbers in center.  One factor might be that the Jays don't really have any other solid CF options, especially with Alex Rios no longer on the roster. 
  • C.J. Wilson is not a candidate to be traded despite the Rangers' signing of Darren Oliver, reports Ben Rogers of ESPNDallas.com.
  • MLB.com's Jim Street says Miguel Tejada's asking price is too high for the Mariners to make a play for the free-agent infielder.
  • Brian McTaggart of MLB.com passes along a report from Houston's KRIV-TV that Great Court Capital is the investment company negotiating to buy the Astros from Drayton McLane.
  • Eric Hinske tells David O'Brien of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that Atlanta "really seemed like the best situation" out of the clubs who made him offers.
  • Doug Miller of MLB.com provides a quick round-up of some of the remaining free agents on the market.

Chone Figgins Too Pricey For White Sox?

Recently, the South Side of Chicago has been identified as a logical destination for Angels third baseman Chone Figgins as he heads into free agency.  However, manager Ozzie Guillen doesn't envision the 31-year-old utility player fitting into the White Sox' budget, reports Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times.

Cowley says that in 2010 high-priced pick-up Alex Rios will take over in center field and Carlos Quentin will move from left to right in place of Jermaine Dye, whose $12MM option is not likely to be picked up.  This leaves one spot open, which could be solved by signing Figgins or retaining Scott Podsednik, who Guillen would "love" to have back.

Podsednik played a slightly below average left field this season, posting a UZR/150 of -3.4 at the position.  Figgins, meanwhile, hasn't played the outfield regularly since 2006. 

Can Figgins be had for less than $10MM per year in a depressed economy?


Odds & Ends: Rios, Hardy, Knapp

A couple more links as the day winds down…

  • According to Mark Gonzales of The Chicago Tribune, one scout called Alex Rios "a teaser," and that he's the kind of the guy that "can get you fired." Kenny Williams sure hopes that's not the case.
  • Jason Churchill of Prospect Insider explains why the Mariners should go after J.J. Hardy. Something tells me we'll see quite a few more posts like this.
  • Jason Knapp, one of the prospects the Indians acquired for Cliff Lee, will have arthroscopic surgery on his throwing shoulder to remove "loose bodies," according to MLB.com's Anthony Castrovince. GM Mark Shapiro says they will not file a grievance.