Alex Rios Rumors
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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."
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.
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.
- Stephen Strasburg didn't allow a run and struck out nine in 6.1 innings at Triple A tonight, as the AP notes on ESPN.com. It's only a matter of weeks before Strasburg starts striking out big leaguers.
- Cha-Seung Baek appears to have found a home in the Yuma Scorpions' rotation, writes Edward Carifio of the Yuma Sun.
- Randy Ruiz, who signed with a Japanese team after getting released by the Blue Jays, told Richard Griffin of the Toronto Star that he's "set for life" (Twitter link).
- Former big leaguer Mike Gosling retired on Monday, according to the Indians' Twitter. The 29-year-old was pitching well in Triple A Columbus, but decided to focus on his family.
- This should come as no surprise, but the Marlins are not looking to trade Hanley Ramirez, according to MLB.com's Joe Frisaro (via Twitter).
- Former Ranger Kevin Millwood tells Calvin Watkins of ESPNDallas.com that he has no hard feelings about the deal that sent him to Baltimore last offseason.
- Carl Crawford told reporters that he doesn't really think about his impending free agency, according to Tyler Kepner of the New York Times.
- J.P. Howell had shoulder surgery today, but the Rays are "optimistic" that the reliever will be ready for 2011, according to Marc Topkin of the St. Petersburg Times (via Twitter).
- ESPN.com's Rob Neyer doesn't think the red hot Blue Jays are likely to finish the season above .500.
- Matt Klaassen of FanGraphs reminds us that Alex Rios was an excellent player before 2009 and argues that the White Sox got a "very good player at a reasonable price" when they claimed him off of waivers from the Blue Jays last summer.
- The first-year player draft begins on June 7th. MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo takes a stab at projecting the first ten picks.
- ESPN's Jerry Crasnick runs through nine stories that have been overdone this year.
- Crasnick's colleague Buster Olney talked to couple of rival talent evaluators who'd love to see the Marlins shop Hanley Ramirez in the wake of his recent jogging incident. Instead, ESPN's Enrique Rojas reports that Ramirez will apologize to Fredi Gonzalez and the team today.
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.