BY: Richard W. Humphrey
The Texas Rangers pulled the trigger on a trade for an outfielder Friday as they acquired Alex Rios from the White Sox for a player to be named later, most likely infielder Leury Garcia. Rios was claimed on waivers by Texas earlier this week. It is unknown as to whether any other teams also made claims, but obviously none of the nine American League teams with priority over Texas did.
Once the waiver claim became known, Rangers’ officials told the media they were doubtful a deal would be made. First, Rios is expensive. He is signed through next season with a club option for 2015. At a minimum, he will be owed approximately $17.5 million for salaries over the balance of this season, next season and the buyout of the 2015 club option. The White Sox are sending some money, rumored to be $1,000,000 to offset the salary cost as part of the transaction. Secondly, Texas had checked in on Rios prior to the July non-waiver trade deadline, and found Chicago’s demands to be exorbitant. There was a serious question as to whether the Rangers would be able to work out a suitable transaction.
On one hand the Rangers’ need for an outfielder is greater now than it was in July, when Nelson Cruz’s fate was still unknown. At this point, the Rangers know that Cruz will not be with the team for the balance of the regular season. On the other hand, Chicago could shop their outfielder to 29 teams in July. Now because of the Rangers’ waiver claim, Chicago had just one team to make a deal with. They finally came to their senses and realized in their position of having the second worst record in the American League, they might as well dump a healthy amount of salary.
An additional incentive to trade Rios revolves around an earlier trade last month. Chicago traded starting pitcher Jake Peavy to Detroit in July and received a monster outfield prospect – Avisail Garcia. By trading Rios, the Sox open up playing time for Garcia over the final seven weeks of the season.
Leury Garcia has most recently been at AAA Round Rock, but was on the Rangers’ 40-man roster. As such, he must clear waivers to complete the trade. The Astros are the only team with waiver priority over Chicago, so the likelihood is that the deal will be completed as envisioned. There are other agreed upon alternatives if Garcia can not get through waivers.
The trade is for sure a break for Garcia. His primary position is shortstop and he is blocked at the Major League level by Elvis Andrus and Jurickson Profar. Behind him in the lower minors are two more better middle infield prospects – Luis Sardinas and Rougned Odor. Garcia needed to move on to another organization to have a chance for a Major League career.
The Rangers undoubtedly have the best overall pitching staff in team history, especially with the addition of Matt Garza. Colby Lewis was shut down for the season this week with hip surgery, but Matt Harrison and Neftali Feliz are already making minor league rehab appearances and could become options to improve the staff. It is a team that has the pitching to do serious damage in the playoffs, if they get there.
Consequently, it was imperative that President of Baseball Operations Jon Daniels make every effort to improve the offense. Rios is having an off season, batting .277 with 12 home runs. Last year, he hit .304 with 25 round trippers. He is a better defender than Cruz, who Rios is expected to replace in right field, and he’s got 26 stolen bases, giving the Rangers three of the top seven stolen base leaders in the American League. Also with Cruz and David Murphy eligible for free agency after this season, it is a plus that Rios is signed through next year. Rios has underperformed to the contract that was originally a seven year, $69.385 million deal, but he improves the Rangers. Texas is also optimistic that Rios will play better with the incentive of being in a pennant race and playing for Ron Washington a manager that usually gets maximum effort from most players. Rios for sure has to be pleased that he picked up 25 games in the standings today.
Rios is expected to report to the Rangers on Saturday. Ron Washington has indicated that Rios will play right field and bat sixth against the Astros Saturday night. Joey Butler is expected to be returned to Round Rock to make room for Rios on the active roster.
On paper, congratulations are in order for Jon Daniels. He made the team better Friday for the final playoff push.
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