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White Sox Fri Aug 09 2013

White Sox To Decide What To Do With Rios

Sox_200.pngI know more about NBA transactions than I do about MLB transactions. In the world of pro basketball, teams are more than happy to flip overvalued marginal veterans with long-term deals for expiring contracts. This is almost always a good move, and very often a great move, freeing up cap space and making it easier for a team to restock for the future. Every trade is made with cutting salary in mind, and oftentimes it doesn't matter what the tangible return is.

Baseball isn't quite the same way. Sure there are buyers and sellers, and teams still like to clear the books even without a restrictive salary cap, but you hardly ever see pure salary dump trades. Usually, an organization picks up a part of the outgoing player's contract and maybe a few low level prospects change hands. So, the receiving team minimizes the risk to a certain extent, and the giving team accepts that just because they want to receive something in the trade.

What about the case of Alex Rios, though?

Rios was put on waivers this week and claimed on Thursday by the Rangers. The White Sox are now in the driver's seat, and have multiple options about what to do with Rios.

The White Sox have only today to work out a trade with the Rangers. Ideally, the Sox will work out a trade and probably agree to pick up a percentage of Rios' salary (around $5 million for the rest of this year and $13 million next year) in exchange for a good prospect.

Early reports say that a trade is unlikely, and according to Buster Olney, teams are afraid of taking on Rios because of his streaky, inconsistent play. With reason, of course: the guy was amazing the first two months, but has seen his power disappear the last two months. He also has been a question-mark from a year-to-year basis, too, so a team could be stuck with him in 2014. The fact that he wasn't traded at the deadline, even though there were some really nice fits for him, says that his value isn't high right now.

Realistically, the Sox have a choice between:

A) Trading Rios while picking up part of his deal and taking on one or a few mid-to-low level prospects
B) Keeping Rios
C) Letting him go for nothing

The last part is the thing that fascinates me. Let your best position player leave for nothing. They could free up the books, put the combined $18 million towards something else and open a spot for Avisail Garcia. They don't have to pay any salary to a player not on their team. They don't have to watch his value decrease over the next few months.

Keeping Rios would be insane. This Sox team is going nowhere this year and next year, so his performance will not spur the Sox to a playoff run. He'd be a waste on a bad team, only one who was making $13 million and jamming up the outfield.

Trading him for marginal prospects just seems inefficient, to me. How many random waiver wire trade prospects actually amount to anything? Basically, the Sox would have to pay X millions of dollars (whatever they have to pay Rios) for the longshot that the young guy they dealt for pans out.

Keeping him and trading him later is risky, too. Will his value escalate in the offseason? No. He's more valuable right now. Right now teams have definite needs and definable holes to fill with little resources to fill them (for example, Brian Wilson was the big free agent signing during this season, and he hasn't pitched since May 2012). In the offseason, teams can fill holes with cheap free agents and minor leaguers who could progress as the season goes along. Teams will have more options for their outfields in the winter.

Maybe he'll fetch a better haul during next season, but he'll be a year older (33) and the Sox will have paid him nearly a year's worth of salary in that time. And, his skills may have diminished, or he could be in a down year.

That just leaves letting him go. It's a little counter-intuitive to think that a team made a good trade by dealing something for nothing. But in this case, the Sox move along in their rebuilding process.

The smart way to play this would be to shoot for the moon with the Rangers. Try and milk them for all they're willing to give up. Use his contract as leverage and make them sweat taking back all of Rios's contract. Try and land a legit good prospect, and try to take on the least amount of Rios's money as you can. Just don't feel that you have to get a tangible return for Rios, and make unwise baseball and financial decision.

Don't be afraid to let Rios go. Sometimes nothing can be something.

 
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