Nobody is going to replace Nelson Cruz, manager Ron Washington said, but the Texas Rangers are hopeful that Alex Rios at least helps fill the void.
The Rangers acquired the 32-year-old outfielder, along with $1 million in cash, from the Chicago White Sox on Friday afternoon in exchange for a player to be named later, which will be infielder Leury Garcia.
“He’s a complete player,” Washington said of Rios. “He just gives us completeness, and I think that’s what we needed.”
Rios is expected to start Saturday, and Washington’s preliminary plans have him batting sixth behind Adrian Beltre and A.J. Pierzynski.
Rios fulfills the Rangers’ desire to add a right-handed bat, and they have now added two of the better players available on the trade market. They landed Chicago Cubs starter Matt Garza last month.
Washington isn’t ready to guarantee another pennant, though, with those two on board.
“We’ve always thought we had as good a shot as anyone in the AL,” Washington said. “We just improved our club. I’m not going to sit here and say this put us over the hump. We’ve got to play.”
The Rangers claimed Rios off waivers on Wednesday, but the deal didn’t come together until Friday morning. Garcia was expendable in the Rangers’ minds because that is a position of strength in the farm system, with middle infielders such as Rougned Odor and Luis Sardinas regarded as higher-ceiling players than Garcia.
The two sides had discussed a trade for Rios before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline, but nothing got too close. That, however, was also before Cruz accepted a 50-game suspension for his ties to performance-enhancing drugs through the Biogenesis of America clinic.
“We’ve had interest in him prior to learning about Nelson’s suspension and continued to have interest in him and were able to work out a deal,” Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said. “We’re happy about that. ... He’s a quality baseball player who can play both sides of the ball.”
Rios is batting .277 with 12 home runs and 55 RBIs in 109 games. He also had 26 stolen bases going into Friday’s game, tied for sixth most in the AL, and is regarded as a good defensive outfielder.
Additionally, Rios gives the Rangers a corner outfielder for next season, with Cruz and David Murphy set to become free agents. Rios is signed for $12.5 million this season and in 2014, and there is a $13.5 million club option or $1 million buyout for 2015.
“It certainly adds a layer to it for us,” Daniels said. “Not only does he help us this year, it certainly fits the bill for us going forward as well.”
Daniels said Rios’ contract status would not affect how the club goes about the off-season in terms of re-signing Cruz.
The Rios acquisition was well-received in the Rangers’ clubhouse. Two of his former teammates, Pierzynski and Jason Frasor, said Rios would fit in well.
Rios recently made headlines when White Sox manager Robin Ventura benched him for not hustling on the base paths, but both Pierzynski and Frasor said going from a last-place team to first-place team would help invigorate Rios.
“How could it not?” Pierzynski said. “It’s not fun to go to the park and be in last place. To come over here with a team with a chance at the postseason, how could it not? There’s no way it couldn’t.”
Frasor agreed, and said Rios has the talent to make a positive impact for the stretch run.
Rios told reporters in Chicago that the change should be “refreshing” for him by going to a contending team.
“I believe they are hoping to win their division and go to the playoffs, so let’s see what happens,” Rios said.