The August waiver wire is a tricky time of year. The ins and outs of the revocable waiver wire and its Byzantine structure is enough to send even the most astute fan for a loop. No matter how often those with boots on the ground insist it, most fans howl at the thought of their favorite player dangling where any scrub team can claim him.
Alex Rios is no stranger to the waiver wire, as his passing from the Toronto Blue Jays to the Chicago White Sox in 2009 represented one of the rare times where the August wire behaved like a “true” waiver wire – the Jays let Rios and his contract go to Chicago for nothing.
While the move freed up a spot for the Jays to play Jose Bautista full time, one can’t help but think the Jays could have gotten something more than nothing for a player who posted nearly league-average offense and 99 steals for the ChiSox in 600 career games. But we digress…
Alex Rios was back on the waiver wire this August and was again claimed, this time by the Texas Rangers. Just when it looked like the 47 hour window for the two teams to make a deal would close and Rios would stay in Chicago comes news that he has, in fact, been traded to the Rangers for a players to be named later and cash considerations.
Leury Garcia is expected to be the player Texas will send to complete the deal. Whichever player they send must also pass through waivers, so Houston (the only team with a worse record than the White Sox) could potentially throw a monkey wrench in this part of the deal.
In the meantime, Texas has a new right fielder and the White Sox tanking continues unabated. Everybody wins!
Few players have ridden the rollercoaster of inconsistency quite like Alex Rios. Great seasons with the Blue Jays from 2006 to 2008, though seasons marked by his trademark uneven performaces. Great halves of seasons always teased and tormented Jays fans. One day, he’ll put it all together, they dreamt in unison.
Until he became the White Sox problem, continuing on the same pattern of bad/good/bad, just spread across longer periods. Putrid when he first joined the Sox in 2009, nice season in 2010, bad again in 2011, and finally terrific last season. Shockingly, Rios threw off the shackles of his teeter-totter life with another strong showing through parts of 2013, arriving at .277/.328/.421 line with 26 steals and 12 home runs.
Even this season displays the tradition Rios ebbs and flows. Awesome April and May, bad through to the All Star break, and better again in the second half.
All the ups and downs distract from the reality of Alex Rios: he’s about a league-average hitter with some power and good speed. He plays a strong outfield and possesses a very nice throwing arm. He’s 32 years old, this is what he is.
The way he arrives at the production might be different but he’s very, very similar to the player he replaces in the Texas outfield: Nelson Cruz. Cruz has more power and gets on base more but he doesn’t run the bases nearly as well as Rios, nor does he possess Rios’ gazelle-like* range in the outfield. Both players have been worth just under 9 fWAR over the last four years. It’s uncanny, really.
Rios’ contract calls for $12.5MM in 2014 with an option for $14MM in 2015 ($1M buyout). Rios receives a $500K boost to his option after being dealt. The Rangers have deep pockets and designs on the World Series, Alex Rios could easily play his way onto the 2014 club with a strong season next year.
Here is my thing with Alex Rios: as stated above, he is a league-average offensive player with more than just skills in the batters box to offer. But, given his ability to run read hot and then ice cold, a bit of good timing could turn this deal into gold for the Rangers. If he runs a bunch of fastballs and strings together a hot streak through September and October, Texas is laughing.
Should he fall apart as only Alex Rios can do, Jon Daniels won’t hesitate to write a check that sends Alex Rios to free agency. At the very least, Rios is a better option than Engel Beltre, Craig Gentry and David Murphy, who might form a reasonable tri-headed platoon in an alternate universe. The Rangers, man. Flags Fly Forever in Texas and that is a glorious thing.
* – blissful and/or oblivious as that gazelle might be.