Free Agent Outlook: Alex Rios

In the past Alex Rios was one of the more frustrating players in baseball.  When he was a prospect he was considered a 5-tool player and he did prove this to be true, just never in the same season.  While he did always flash the glory that he could be he never really lived up to that .300 hitter while being a 30/30 player that we thought he could be.  As his career has gone on he has gotten far more consistent with what he can do and has become a very solid player in the game even if he still doesn’t steal bases.

2014 was a very “eh” year for Alex Rios especially coming off 2 seasons of very strong play.  His .280/.311/.398 is very pedestrian slash line for a player of Rios’ caliber and his pay.  It’s not a terrible total mind out buy that below average OBP is something to worry about considering he’s not the best walker and his 4.4% walk rate was a full percent point lower than his career total.  Last years strikeout rate of 17.9% is his highest since 2006 and has been trending up since 2012, a very bad sign when a players walk rate stays that low but the strikeout rate continues to grow.  Rios had his worst ISO of his career in 2014 of only .118 and that is a very worrying sign but the bright side is the drop seems to be a fluke since a 40 point drop in any stat from year to year could have just been a fluke.  Though his raising K% and his inconsistent power numbers, his ISO has been in flux since 2009, could show what level of production is in his future.

Pros:

Rios has proven to be a very consistent hitter the last few years.  In the last 5 seasons Rios has failed to bat over .275 once and that was a terrible season for him back in 2011.  After that season though he has been the very model of consistent being able to hit for a moderate amount of power and get on base regularly.  Rios isn’t immune to the strikeout but at the same time he doesn’t get struck out as often as most players now and days so it balances out that low walk rate.  As a fielder Rios is just average but still very usable.

Cons:

As we discussed at the top of this article Rios was a little up and down in the beginning and seeing the numbers from last year we have to assume he may be in the trend again.  It’s easy to throw his 2014 season struggles out since it was just one season but at 33 (34 at the beginning of the 2015 season) those downward trends could start becoming an issue quickly.  Rios isn’t a walker, never has been and likely never will be, which could lead to some to an inconsistent OBP later in his career.  In fact we can see that trend already starting having his OBP drop 10 points each of the last 2 seasons and if that’s not a trend to worry you then here’s another to worry you.  His ISO is in the same trend as his OBP but worse dropping 50 points each of the last 2 seasons, remember that ISO isn’t the homerun stat it’s his overall power numbers so that means doubles are down as well.  Overall Rios seems to be losing the all-important battle of age and we’re seeing the outcome.

Contract:

Toronto had a very odd period of time where they gave huge contracts to players they thought would be their future.  In today’s climate that’s actually the trend, lock up the young guns and seal them up, but back then it wasn’t the norm and even by today’s standards Rios’ contract would never happen.  Rios had a 7-year $69.8 million contract with a 1-year team option for the 2015 season, which the Rangers have just declined, and we can assume no one is crazy enough (or at least likes his job enough to keep it) to sign him to a similar contract so we have to take a guess.

Coming off the 2014 season Rios’ stock is low and won’t get a super amount of suitors.  He will get a few, as we’ll discuss later, but at his advanced age there isn’t really a market for him.  Using his WAR as a starting point we can look and see what players around him could be a good comparison and to be fair he’s in a group of underachievers like Baltimore’s Chris Davis, Shin-Soo Choo, Eric Hosmer, and Jean Segura. 

But there is one name that does make a good comparison for Rios and that is Miami Marlins outfielder Garrett Jones who signed a 2 year $7.8 million deal last offseason.  Looking at Rios’ numbers a 2-year deal, with maybe a team option for a 3rd, would be appropriate and making it say $10-13 million a year would be more than fair.  In fact if the team was trying to save a buck or 2 they can make it a incentive laced deal where Rios can earn his money after his struggles.

Teams:

Boston Red Sox: With the recent trade of Cespedes the team is now in the market for a new RF or at least could be in the market.  The team has options and could choose to go with its rookies like Mookie Betts and Jackie Bradley to fill the void but more likely Betts is the teams CF at the beginning of the season.  Rios would be a decent fit in Boston but with the power issues he’s had the team may consider more options before going to him.

Texas Rangers: Yes they just declined his $14 million option but that’s probably cause they think they can sign him for less.  Rios would be in the drivers seat on this one since the Rangers don’t have a lot of options to really fall back on.  While Rios didn’t fair so well in his first full season there he did just fine in the half season he had in 2013.

Atlanta Braves: This one comes with an asterisk right on the bat since this could happen only if the rumor that the Braves are potentially trading Jason Heyward to the Boston Red Sox is true.  If that’s then the team will need a new outfielder but at the same time if they do this the teams in rebuild mode so they’re not likely spending money on aging outfielders.

Milwaukee Brewers: While the team does have a pretty strong outfield at the moment it all hinges on how much they believe in Khris Davis.  Davis was on pace at one point last season to shatter the strike out record just after the All-Star break but he finally found his swing and ended up being a strong rookie campaign.  Rios would be more consistent but Davis has the upside.

Arizona Diamondbacks: The team doesn’t really have a set RF for next season at this moment so it could work for Rios.  It’s a hitter friendly field and less pressure than both Texas and Detroit would be so it has its advantages.  On the down side the D-Backs aren’t likely to fork up the cash that Detroit and Texas can so it would be a price cut.  Secondly the team isn’t ready to be in the playoff hunt next year but its time is coming, a 34-year-old RF may not fit into their plans.

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