6:37pm: Ríos is guaranteed $1MM on the deal, reports Kiley McDaniel of ESPN (Twitter link).
6:24pm: The Cubs have signed corner infielder Edwin Ríos to a big league contract, tweets Maddie Lee of the Chicago Sun-Times. Reliever Ethan Roberts was placed on the 60-day injured list to open a spot on the 40-man roster. Ríos is represented by Excel Sports Management.
Ríos, 28, has played in each of the last four MLB campaigns as a member of the Dodgers. He hasn’t gotten more than 32 appearances in any individual season, a testament both to Los Angeles’ position player depth and Ríos’ personal injury history. The left-handed hitter has spent time on the injured list in each of the past three seasons. He lost some time in 2020 to a left hamstring strain and has missed significant chunks of the last couple years with respective right shoulder and right hamstring injuries.
Those maladies have disrupted what has been a promising start to Ríos’ big league career. He has 20 home runs, nine doubles and a triple in just 292 trips to the plate. A lofty 32% strikeout rate has worked against his batting average and on-base percentage (respectively .219 and .299) but he owns a very strong .492 slugging mark against MLB pitching. That power outburst included seven round-trippers in 27 games last season.
Ríos has been a quality offensive player over an even larger body of work at Triple-A. Through parts of four seasons at the top minor league level, the Florida International product carries an excellent .282/.349/.526 line with a decent 8.2% walk rate but a 31.1% strikeout percentage in a little under 1200 plate appearances. Ríos bat-to-ball skills are questionable, but there’s little doubt he has significant power upside.
That production intrigued the Cubs enough to guarantee him a major league roster spot. He’d been non-tendered by the Dodgers at the start of the offseason, with L.A. opting against retaining him on a salary projected by MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz around $1.4MM. Financial terms of his deal with Chicago aren’t known, though it’s assuredly a low base salary. The more meaningful development is that he won’t have to work his way onto the 40-man roster.
Ríos does still have one minor league option year remaining. The Cubs can keep him in Triple-A Iowa for the upcoming season, though there’s also a path to securing regular playing time in the majors. Chicago’s third base situation is unsettled, with Patrick Wisdom, Christopher Morel and Nick Madrigal among those who could vie for reps.
Wisdom, a right-handed hitter, has been the primary option at the hot corner the past two years. He has slugged .533 against left-handed pitching in that time but posted a .209/.290/.438 line against righties. That makes him a potential platoon fit with the lefty-swinging Ríos. Morel and Madrigal also hit from the right side but could assume multi-positional roles off the bench and/or head back to the minors on optional assignment.
If Ríos carves out an important role and runs with it, he could be a long-term piece for the Chicago infield. He has a little over three years of major league service. He’ll be eligible for arbitration at least twice more after this season, and any optional stint in the minors could extend that window of control by an additional season.
The 25-year-old Roberts pitched in nine games last year after breaking camp as a rookie. He eventually landed on the shelf with shoulder inflammation and required Tommy John surgery last June. It’s possible he returns from that procedure at the tail end of the season, but there’s no chance he’d have been ready within the first two months. His IL placement was a mere formality whenever the need for a roster spot arose. He’ll be paid at the MLB minimum rate and accrue big league service time while rehabbing.