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The impact of adding Alex Rios

The Rangers have added Alex Rios to their roster. How is that going to impact the team going forward?

Jamie Squire

Well, the Rangers have acquired Alex Rios from the Chicago White Sox.  Let's look at the impact this move has on the Rangers.

Rios has been acquired to replace Nelson Cruz as the team's starting right fielder (although he could play some left field as well).  Rios is making $12.5M this season.  Nelson Cruz was making $10.5M this year, although he's not being paid during his suspension.  Factoring in the savings from not paying Cruz, this move costs the Rangers about $500K more in salary over the course of the rest of the season as they would have paid if Cruz had not been suspended and if they had not acquired Rios.

Someone will have to be dropped from the 25 man roster to make room for Rios.  I'm assuming that player would be Joey Butler, who was brought up to be a righthanded DH/RF platoon bat, since Rios, as a righthander, would seem to make him superfluous.  However, it could be Engel Beltre who goes down, with Jeff Baker platooning with Mitch Moreland at first base, Craig Gentry platooning with David Murphy in the outfield, and Butler DHing against lefthanded pitchers.

Over the course of a full season, Rios is basically a 2-3 win player, which is about the level Nelson Cruz had played at this season.  Rios offers his value in a different way than Cruz -- more defense and speed on the basepaths (he is 26 for 32 this season in steals), less power -- but the total value is similar.

With Cruz suspended, Rios will essentially replace some combination of Engel Beltre, Joey Butler and Jurickson Profar as an OF/DH, and I think its questionable as to whether those players would have given the Rangers replacement level production in Cruz's absence.  Adding Rios probably means an extra half-win to a win over the rest of the year.

It would seem the biggest impact of this deal would come in the playoffs.  If Lance Berkman comes back healthy and productive, the Rangers could slot Berkman at DH in the playoffs, and have a Rios/Leonys/Cruz starting outfield.  If Berkman is done, as many fear, then Cruz can DH, with Murphy and Gentry platooning in the other outfield spot next to Leonys and Rios.

So for this season, Rios isn't likely to make a huge impact, but he isn't really costing any more, in terms of salary, than Nelson Cruz would have cost, had he not been suspended, and the cost in terms of prospects was just Leury Garcia, whose future appears to be as a bench player.  So that works.

As interesting is what impact Rios will have on how the team approaches 2014.  We've talked before about how the Rangers are in a situation where they have question marks at two outfield spots and the DH spot for 2014 (plus possibly first base, depending upon how you feel about Mitch Moreland).  At this point, the Rangers can, if they choose, put Ian Kinsler in left field next season, keep Leonys in center, and have Alex Rios in right field, which would solve the outfield problem (albeit by saddling them with a not overly impressive outfield) and leave them just the DH spot to fill.

If we assume the $1M the ChiSox are kicking in is applied towards next season, the Rangers currently have $86.325M committed for 2014, assuming Berkman is bought out and Joe Nathan opts out of his final season.  Texas has five arbitration cases -- Neftali Feliz, Mitch Moreland, Alexi Ogando, Craig Gentry and Neal Cotts -- and that would put the team at about $100M for the 2014 season.

That would leave them somewhere around $30-40M to pay for a catcher, a DH, potentially a starting pitcher (if they want to bring Matt Garza back), and round out the bench and pay the minimum salary guys.  That's not a bad chunk of change to have available, but that could go quickly if, say, the Rangers pay Garza $18M to stick around for 2014 and beyond.

I suspect that Rios may be a contingency plan for 2014.  I would wager that the Rangers would like to get a more potent bat in place next season, and will no doubt be pestering the Marlins about Giancarlo Stanton while kicking the tires on free agents like Shin-Soo Choo and Curtis Granderson.  Rios being under contract for next season gives the Rangers the security of knowing that they've got him here, if they need him, which means they aren't backed in the corner and forced to overpay for an outfielder.  At the same time, his contract for next season is likely moveable, and if the Rangers find someone they prefer to fill his spot, they can send him elsewhere without having to eat much, if any, of what he's due next year.