While we have to wait until tomorrow afternoon to find out which major league team placed a waiver claim on Toronto outfielder Alex Rios one thing is abundantly clear – the Blue Jays would be crazy to pull him back and keep him on the roster.
A few years ago the 28-year-old Rios looked to be developing into a perennial All-Star. Then he signed a seven-year, $69.35 million contract at the beginning of the 2008 season. Since that time, Rios has gone from developing superstar to confirmed bust.
In 2007, the former first rounder (No. 19 pick in 1999) had his best year as a pro. He played in 161 games, hit .297 with 24 home runs, 85 RBI, and 114 runs scored. His on-base percentage was .354 and he slugged .498. Those numbers have all declined precipitously since.
In 2008 he played in 155 games and hit .291, with 15 home runs, 79 RBI and 91 runs, while his OBP was .337 and he slugged .461.
Thus far in 2009 he’s hitting .264 with 14 home runs, 62 RBI and 52 runs, his OBP is down to .317 and he’s slugging just .427.
He also has the lowest range factor of all major league right fielders at 1.82. For those who don’t know, 1.82 awful for an outfielder.
Rios is still owed $2 million for the rest of this season, then a minimum of $59 million over the next five years.
The Blue Jays have several options for what to do now that Rios has been inexplicably claimed by another franchise.
1. Pull him back off waivers and keep him for themselves for the rest of the year and the foreseeable future.
2. Work out a trade with the team that claimed him.
3. Allow the team that claimed him to take him off their hands at no cost.
If they can’t work out option No. 2, they would be crazy to not just go with option No. 3 and let him go. The Blue Jays have been clamoring to dump a contract for the better part of two months. They couldn’t get what they wanted in return for ace Roy Halladay, so they held on to him. Now that Rios has been claimed, they have a perfect opportunity to get some financial flexibility without losing that much. Rios is clearly not the guy the Blue Jays thought he’d be when they gave him a ridiculous contract. If that sounds familiar, look at Vernon Wells’ stats since they locked him up long term.
If Rios is still on the Blue Jays roster by the end of the week, Toronto general manager J.P. Ricciardi needs to be fired. This is the perfect chance to dump a bad contract and he needs to take advantage of it.
There is a lot of debate out there over who was crazy enough to actually claim Rios. The most chatter has surrounded the Chicago White Sox, who have been desperately searching for an outfielder. The San Francisco Giants have also been looking for outfield help and about 20 months ago they actually considered sending Tim Lincecum to Toronto in return for Rios. Sounds crazy in hindsight right?
So who went crazy and tried to snag Rios this time?
We’ll find out the answer tomorrow afternoon.
UPDATE: It was, in fact, the White Sox who claimed Rios and now they have acquired him essentially for free from the Blue Jays. Well, unless you count his contract. So in just a few weeks the ChiSox have added well over $100 million in payroll for two players. Interesting moves.