Rangers trade rumors: Alex Rios was acquired by the Rangers right after the non-waiver trade deadline last season, with Texas acquiring him in exchange for Leury Garcia, and with the Chicago White Sox paying $1 million of what was due on Rios's contract for the privilege of shipping him out.
Rumors continue to swirl that Rios will be dealt again before the non-waiver trade deadline, which is just three days away. Ken Rosenthal tweeted about this yesterday:
Among teams that have checked in on #Rangers’ Rios, from my sources and @jonmorosi’s: #Mariners, #SFGiants, #Yankees, #Reds.— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) July 27, 2014
Rosenthal also identified the six teams that Rios could block a trade to:
Rios’ six-team no-trade list, per @MDGonzales: #Yankees, #DBacks, #Rockies, #Royals, #Astros, #Athletics.— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) July 27, 2014
If Rios were a free agent after the season, the Rangers' decision would be easy...dump him for the best offer on the table on July 31. However, Rios has a club option for $14 million in 2015 with a $1 million buyout, and if he is dealt during the 2014 season, that buyout increases to $2 million. That gives the Rangers, who expect to contend in 2015 and who would have a hole in right field next year if they dealt Rios, some reason to keep Rios. They could conceivably hold onto him until the offseason, exercise his option, and then plug him into the 2015 lineup, or send him elsewhere this winter.
The flip side is that the 2015 option potentially increases the value for Rios suitors, as it means that he's not just a rental. Of course, that presumes that a team interested in trading for Rios would want to keep him around for 2015 at a cost of $14 million...while that doesn't seem like an inherently unreasonable price on a one year deal, a team that is a buyer now may not want to keep Rios at that cost next year.
So its a muddled, complicated situation, made even more complicated by Rios's disappointing play of late. Rios's overall line this season is .299/.328/.426, good for a 107 OPS+, basically the same as his combined .278/.324/.432 (104 OPS+) line he put up in 2013. Rios has just 4 homers on the season, though, he's been thrown out stealing 9 times in 25 attempts, he's grounded into 16 double plays, and his defense, by most advanced metrics, hasn't been good. In addition, since peaking with an 859 OPS on June 10, Rios has put up a .231/.248/.306 slash line over his past 36 games, spanning 141 plate appearances. A team acquiring Rios is going to have to hope that's just an aberration, or the result of loss of focus as a result of playing for a team that is in last place, and not a harbinger of things to come.
I continue to struggle to get a handle on what the Rangers' return on Rios might be. There's not a lot of bats on the market, which would seem to drive up the price for Rios, but then, he's not that great of a player, and there's not much surplus value on his contract. The Rangers only gave up Leury Garcia to get him last year, and I have a hard time identifying a team that's going to give up substantially more than that for Rios now. And if that's all that the Rangers can get for Rios, I can't see them trading him, unless they've already decided they aren't bringing him back for 2015.
The Reds and Mariners seem like the most obvious fits, though I have no idea what the Rangers would ask for in return from either team.
I feel like I've written a whole lot while not saying anything...but really, I have a hard time figuring out what is going with the Rios market, and there's not a lot out there from the national writers other than, Rios is available and some teams are interested. I've gone back and forth on whether I think the Rangers will end up dealing him by July 31...if I had to say right now, I'd say he's gone, for something between Spencer Patton, who they got for Jason Frasor, and Corey Knebel, who was half the cost of Joakim Soria. Ask me in an hour, though, and my opinion may have changed.