Texas Rangers rumors: Alex Rios, the outfielder Texas acquired from the Chicago White Sox right after the trade deadline last year, has been discussed quite a bit as someone the Rangers could move when (I don't think we can say "if" anymore) the Rangers become sellers this month. But the situation with Rios is a little more complicated than it appears at first glance, and I don't think it is a given that the Rangers are going to move him.
Rios is under contract for the rest of 2014 at $12.5 million. The Rangers hold a club option on Rios for the 2015 season at $13.5 million, with a $1 million buyout -- in other words, it will effectively cost Texas (or whatever club trades for him) $12.5 million to have Rios for the 2015 season. That's not an exorbitant amount for a one year commitment for a decent starting outfielder, and at this point, the Rangers don't have an obvious palatable solution for right field in 2015 if Rios is dealt. Texas could use some combination of Michael Choice, Engel Beltre and Jim Adduci in right field in 2015, but Choice has been awful this season, Engel is a defensive whiz who isn't expected to hit, and Adduci is a journeyman whose highest and best use is probably as a 4th outfielder. The free agent market isn't overflowing with strong right field options, and unless the Rangers want to push Joey Gallo aggressively and stick him in right field in 2015, as Jon Heyman suggested was a possibility last month, they don't have anyone in the minor leagues who appears ready to handle that job.
So on the one hand, the Rangers could hold onto Rios, anticipating that he will play right field next season. On the other hand, they could feel like the $12.5 million they would pay Rios could be better applied elsewhere -- say, for a starting pitcher to fill the hole in the #3 spot in the rotation that Martin Perez's and Matt Harrison's injuries have created -- and they might decide Choice can sink or swim in right field next year.
Or they could be somewhere in between, in a situation where, if they keep Rios, they would exercise his option, but with an eye towards potentially moving him this winter, when there might be more of a market for him than there is this summer.
Jim Bowden had a piece at ESPN yesterday that addressed what the Rangers might be able to get for Rios at the deadline, and it isn't something that will get your pulse racing. The quote that sums up what he thinks in regards to how the Rangers would benefit from moving Rios:
The Rangers should be satisfied by getting approximately $6 million off the books for the rest of the season, as well as the $1 million buyout on Rios' 2015 team option ($13.5 million).
So, yeah, Bowden is suggesting Rios would be a salary dump. He mentions Kansas City, Baltimore, Seattle and Boston as possible destinations for Rios, but the prospects he mentions as possibly going to Texas aren't going to excite anyone.
And that probably shouldn't be surprising. Rios isn't a player that teams are beating down the door to acquire. Chicago claimed him off of waivers in 2009 from the Toronto Blue Jays, in the second year of a 7 year, $69.835M deal, and Toronto happily let the ChiSox have him (and his contract), with the consensus being that dumping that contract for nothing was a win for Toronto. Then, last year, on August 9, the Rangers consummated a deal for Rios after claiming him on waivers from Chicago, but all they gave up to get him was 21 year old utility infielder Leury Garcia -- and the ChiSox sent $1 million in cash to Texas as part of the deal.
So Rios has been dumped twice for virtually nothing on his current contract. He's got a .305/.336/.434 line, which is nice, but not outstanding, and his home run total -- he only has 3 homers this year -- is no doubt concerning to potential suitors. Rios's contract isn't onerous, but there isn't a ton of surplus value there, and given that, its probably not reasonable to expect the Rangers to get much in return for him.
However...the Rangers could opt to try to increase the return they are getting by paying some of Rios's remaining salary. They obviously aren't adding salary at the deadline, and with the Prince Fielder and Matt Harrison injuries, they are getting some money back in the form of insurance. If Rios gets moved this month, he'll be owed approximately $5 million for the rest of the year.
Given that the rules MLB now has in place in regards to bonus spending in the draft and in the international markets limit how much a team can splurge in regards to acquiring young talent, and given that the Rangers don't have a big pool of money available to them in either the 2014 draft or in this year's J-2 class (where they are limited to paying no more than $250,000 in a signing bonus to any one player), one has to wonder if the Rangers might view this as an opportunity to, essentially, buy a prospect from another organization, seeking better talent in a Rios deal in exchange for eating a good chunk of Rios's salary.
Kansas City would be the prime candidate for a move such as that...they are looking to make the playoffs for the first time in years, aren't a big spending team, and have some nice talent in the minor leagues. If Texas can get a solid prospect for Rios if they pay most of his salary, particularly someone they think could contribute at the major league level in 2015 (given that they anticipate being contenders next year), are they better off doing that? Or would the extra $5 million or so be better allocated towards future spending?
There's no obvious answer, and you can't even really speculate without knowing what sort of prospects a team would be willing to offer up if they don't have to pay Rios, compared to if they do. But it is an interesting dynamic at play, and one more moving part that I anticipate the front office will have to deal with and consider as they make their decision on what to do with Rios this month.