Alex Rios is a hypothesis – a kite in the sky, a microbe in a petri dish, an experiment to be tested. And if you look closely, Alex Rios will tell you everything you need to know about the 2015 season.
Outcome #1: Alex Rios is traded before the July 31st, 2014 deadline.
On the surface, this outcome is easy to interpret. Sell the player whose value to your team is low while he still holds value to another. The Rangers hold a reasonable club option on Alex Rios for the 2015 season, which means Rios’ time in Texas is limited, whether his stay terminates this season or next. With a plethora of semi-capable, unproven backups waiting in the wings (Michael Choice, Engel Beltre, Jim Adduci, Jake Smolinski, and even Daniel Robertson), Rios can be replaced, albeit without the production of 9 year veteran.
So, what about the return? What could the Rangers receive in exchange for their right-fielder? Well, short answer: not much. The Rangers swapped a utility infielder (Leury Garcia) for Rios at last year’s deadline. While Garcia has played intermittently for the White Sox, he was a decent prospect who projects as a marginal second baseman. As a Rangers fan, would you rather have a midlevel prospect who may or may not impact the big league club’s future or Rios for another year and a half at a salary nearing $14 million? That is the question Jon Daniels and his army of advisers must ask themselves.
Another byproduct of trading Alex Rios is the implication on the 2015 season. If Alex Rios is traded, 2 things could have been the catalyst: (1) the Front Office believes the Rangers will not seriously contend for a World Series in 2015, thus harvesting any possible assets for aging players; or (2) the Front Office believes a better “bang for the buck” replacement could be obtained through the minor leagues or free agency.
If the answer is #1, we’re in trouble. If the answer is #2, several courses of action are possible. The Front Office could believe Michael Choice or Engel Beltre or Jim Adduci is ready to step into a starting role. The Front Office could believe a better replacement is available in free agency, such as Melky Cabrera, Cruz, Rasmus, Cuddyer, Aoki, Hunter, etc. The Front Office could believe Joey Gallo is ready to hit in the big leagues and right field is the quickest ascendance. The Front Office could believe Giancarlo Stanton (gasp) is ripe for the picking. The Front Office could believe Alex Rios’ money could be better spent on a starting pitcher like David Price. Bottom line: who knows what ticks insides Jon Daniels’ massive, Ivy League-trained brain.
Outcome #2: Alex Rios is not traded; Rangers pick up $12.5 million option for 2015.
Like Will Ferrell said in Blades of Glory, this outcome means one thing and one thing only: the Front Office believes the Rangers will contend for a World Series in 2015. If the Rangers are all-in for 2015, the Rios option will be picked up, pitching depth will be added, and the Rangers will go to war with a hopefully healthy lineup. We all know Wash loves his vets and a championship team needs productive hitters in the lineup from top to bottom. A 2015 lineup with Rios in the 6-hole would be radically different than a lineup sans Rios with Soto in the 6-hole.
Outcome #3: Fire sale.
So, when you’re sitting at home kicking your television and throwing your microwave dinner across the room and asking for Jon Daniels’ head and demanding for every player ever associated with the Rangers to be traded, remember the consequences. Remember the consequences on a 2015 season that can restore hope to a fanbase that has been clawing towards a World Series championship since the ‘70s.
And if all else fails, no matter what we do, Joey Gallo will ride in on his white horse and save us all. (kidding… sort of)