Rangers Rip White Sox Off In Alex Rios Trade

The non-waiver trade deadline was 9 days ago, at which point it was believed White Sox outfielder Alex Rios was one of — if not the – top bats on the market. As recently as just over a week ago, Chicago was supposedly demanding from the Rangers both LHP Martin Perez and top pitching prospect, RHP Luke Jackson, at which point Jon Daniels probably laughed hysterically before imploring Rick Hahn to never call him again on that number. (Richard Durrett.)

Then yesterday, in what really wasn’t earth-shattering news, it became known the Rangers put in a waiver claim on Rios. The waiver process works in such a way that whomever claims the player in question has exclusive negotiating rights with the team that put the player on waivers. However, if a player does manage to clear waivers, he may be traded anywhere, much like the July 31st deadline.

By the Rangers claiming Alex Rios, the White Sox basically saw all their leverage dissolve into a fine powder, because rather than being able to shop Rios on the open market, Texas was the lone bidder. Supply and demand. Though, even with that said, no one had a gun to the head of Rick Haun; he didn’t have to trade his outfielder, which makes today’s transaction nothing short of baffling from his perspective.

Along with Rios, the White Sox are sending $1 million to Texas (perhaps to help pay for the $500K buyout escalator in his contract that is now at play since he was traded). In return, Chicago picks up Leury Garcia, 22, who as you probably recall was the Rangers sparingly-used utility infielder for the first month and a half of 2013. From wanting Martin Perez and Luke Jackson, to settling on Leury Garcia. I don’t get it.

I’m having a hard time reasoning with myself why Haun didn’t just pocket Rios until the offseason — where assuredly he’d fetch a higher return than Leury — or why they didn’t just take the best offer that was on the table on July 31st, which, again, had to be better than a light-hitting middle infield prospect. It just had to be.

But c’est la vie, if it’s a coup for the Rangers then why should I care?

Alex Rios is under contract for the remainder of 2013 (where he’ll be due ~$3 million) and 2014 ($12.5 million), and has a $13.5 million option for 2015 (which originally included a $1 million buyout, however, per his contract, is now worth $1.5 million due to the trade).

In simple terms, the Rangers total investment in Rios — taking into account the $1 million from CHW in salary relief — will either be for $16 million through 2014, or $28 million through 2015.

Essentially, he will need to be a +2.0-2.5 Win player to justify the terms of his contract.

Alex Rios had a brilliant three-year run with Toronto between 2006-2008, producing +13.9 fWAR while being proficient at all three phases of the game, as defined by his mean averages offensively (117 wRC+), defensively (+13.2 UZR), and on the bases (+5.1 BsR).

Since then, Rios has been an enigma, seemingly fluctuating between solid and (below) replacement-level, shown by his Wins Above Replacement outputs since 2009 (per FanGraphs):

0.0, +3.4, -1.1, +4.2

In 2013, he’s been decent. He brings with him a league-average .277/.328/.421 (102 wRC+) triple slash line, though he has swiped 26 bases and his defense is generally regarded as better-than-average-to-plus. He has 8 outfield assists this season.

From my shoes, I’m not entirely jazzed about Alex Rios the baseball player, but from the perspective of the front office acquiring assets without losing much in return, I’m thrilled. Jon Daniels will be paying, fiscally, a premium for what could very well be nothing more than an average Major League outfielder, but Leury Garcia had no future here.

What JD is gambling on, I surmise, is the Beta — or ceiling — Rios theoretically provides. As a human being, intrinsically there’s a different level of motivation playing for a dormant, last place team than there is on one competing for an American League pennant. That is, of course, assuming said player doesn’t have a personal vendetta against said first place team and wishes nothing but pain and suffering for its fan base.

But so it is. If Alex Rios only turns out to be a +1.0- or +2.0-Win player between now and whenever the Rangers decide they are done with him, I don’t imagine many people will be losing sleep. But Rios has shown in the past that he can be a productive, middle-of-the-order bat, with the upside to be an impact force.

I won’t bank on it, but I’m not going to be surprised to see it happen.

I think he’ll like it here.

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