As Thursday’s trade deadline nears, it’s well-known the Texas Rangers are in sell mode.
Alex Rios’ name has been floating around trade circles since way back at the end of July and early June, when the Rangers finally cratered as everyone expected them to after the blitzkrieg of injuries had left their major league roster in shambles.
But entering play tonight, there is Rios penciled into the No. 3 spot in the lineup – right between Elvis Andrus and Adrian Beltre – as his name continues to get passed either verbally or through text in multiple executives’ cell phones.
As I mentioned above, the Rangers are in sell mode, and there is a very large difference between sell mode and rebuild mode. Plain and simple, the Rangers are not in rebuild mode.
Yes, this is a lost season as far as wins are concerned for the Rangers. But they certainly expect to contend again as soon as 2015, when they expect the returns of the multitude of players who were lost this season.
So they are selling off some of their talent at or near the end of their contracts. They have already sent Jason Frasor to Kansas City for relief pitching prospect Spencer Patton, and they could be sending Neal Cotts out for a prospect, as well.
Both of those players are in the final year of their respective contracts with no vesting options in 2015. That is not the case with Rios.
Yes, Rios is in the last year of the seven-year, $69.84 million deal he signed way back in 2008 with the Toronto Blue Jays, but he has a team option of $13.5 million for 2015 with a $1 million buyout.
The Rangers are in a unique position, because they can deal him to a team that needs a solid everyday right fielder for a playoff push this year and recoup some more talent to stock the farm system with.
But if they don’t like the offers they are receiving for him, they can keep him and pick up that 2015 option and have him man right field next year, when they fully intend to be in playoff contention once again.
They could, as we all hope, find a team who is looking for just what Rios could bring to them, make a match and have a deal much like they did Joakim Soria.
Soria, like Rios, has a team option at $7 million for next season. If the Rangers didn’t like the offers they were receiving for him, they could have kept him and picked up that option for next season.
But the Detroit Tigers saw value in Soria, as he can step right in as a setup man and they valued that option for next year. So they agreed to a trade with the Rangers for two solid pitching prospects in Jake Thompson and Corey Knebel.
The question with taking that route with Rios is this: Who would play right field next year if they do indeed deal Rios before tomorrow’s 3 p.m. Central deadline?
That question, unfortunately, cannot be answered right now.
You would think the Rangers would have no problem in giving the job to Michael Choice, whom they acquired – along with Chris Bostick – from Oakland this past offseason in a trade for Craig Gentry and Josh Lindblom.
But Choice, who should have been able to start the season off getting every-day at-bats in Triple-A Round Rock, had a woeful time hitting at the big league level this year. Choice hit just .177 in 198 at-bats with four doubles and eight home runs.
He was sent down to Triple-A at the beginning of this month to get things worked out.
There is Jim Adduci and Jake Smolinski, but Adduci just returned from a long stint on the disabled list and Smolinski was just placed on the DL. We would need to see how they played the rest of the season to get closer to an answer.
The Rangers could hold off on dealing Rios – again, if they don’t like the offers for him – pick up his option in the offseason and still trade him. That, however, will not likely happen unless they like what they see from one of their own prospects in the final third of this season.
They have to ask themselves, right now, if they are comfortable opening up an immediate question mark for next season. Only they can convince themselves one way or the other.
There are a lot of intangibles involved in this Rios situation. Let’s hope they make a calculated and correct decision.
Me? I hope they do get to trade Rios for a valuable prospect or two.
But if they don’t like their offers, I have no problem holding off, picking up the option and going into 2015 with Rios in right field for the Rangers.