To those who continue to buy into the idea that the Texas Rangers will be huge sellers at the trade deadline, consider the decision they face on Alex Rios.
At this point, it’s not really so much of a decision as it is a slam dunk that the Rangers will pass on any offers for their right fielder and will then exercise the club-friendly option they hold on him.
It has become an easy call on two fronts: the economics of the game and his on-field performance as one of the league’s best hitters (.319 this season), one of its best base stealers (28 in his past 119 games) and a steady defensive player since the Rangers acquired him in an Aug. 10 trade.
That package would fetch more than $13.5 million if Rios were allowed to become a free agent, as the market for corner outfielders has changed significantly since the Toronto Blue Jays signed him to a seven-year, $69.8 million contract before the 2008 season.
Hunter Pence will make $18.5 million next season. Carl Crawford will make $20.5 million. Jayson Werth will make $21 million. Josh Hamilton will make $23 million.
A club option of $13.5 million for Rios, especially the Rios who has been the league’s top hitter on multiple occasions the past two weeks, seems like a bargain.
“From a baseball standpoint and a contract standpoint, we’re certainly pointed in that direction,” general manager Jon Daniels said Wednesday.
The Rangers might have been playing coy 11 months ago, ahead of the 2013 trade deadline. Some in the organization didn’t like Rios then, though probably not for what the package of left-hander Martin Perez, right-hander Luke Jackson and second baseman Rougned Odor that the Chicago White Sox was seeking.
Only nine days after the non-waiver deadline passed, the Rangers made a waiver claim on Rios and struck a deal with the White Sox for utility infielder Leury Garcia.
The Rangers should be charged with grand larceny.
Rios is their leader in extra-base hits with 45 since his first Rangers game Aug. 10, is tied with Elvis Andrus for the lead in steals (28) and is just behind only Adrian Beltre in batting average (.305 to .303) and slugging percentage (.463 to .460.).
Rios has never been a bad player, though he didn’t show well after a being traded to the White Sox in 2009 and also struggled in 2011. But he has been an All-Star who has hit as many as 25 homers in a season.
Rios has been stuck on three home runs this season since May 14, but he leads the majors with eight triples and is tied with Beltre for the second-most doubles (15) among Rangers hitters.
“The main thing I’m doing is trying to stick with my approach,” Rios said. “I try to stay positive all the time, and I just go out there and play.”
What are the Rangers waiting for in picking up that option?
The 2009 post-trade plunge could be one season. Rios batted only .199 in 41 games after the deal. He has hit 12 points worse in the second half throughout his career, though .273 is hardly a deal-breaker.
It’s also possible that some club makes the Rangers an offer they can’t refuse at the trade deadline, though that seems unlikely as a team might not want to pay a rental player a $1 million buyout on top of the prorated chunk of his $12.5 million 2014 salary.
Also, stuff happens.
“If I had to make a decision today, sure,” Daniels said. “But the nature of these decisions is there’s really no reason to make them before you have to. We’re going to wait.”
That’s fine by Rios, who said that he hasn’t given 2015 much thought.
As a player who has been traded away twice, he understands the business side of the game. At the same time, he values continuity and likes the idea of keeping his family in one spot.
He also expects that the Rangers, with all of this season’s injured players healthy, will contend in 2015.
Rios, especially at $13.5 million, and the Rangers are a perfect fit for 2015, at least based on what he’s done so far.
“It would be nice to stay in one place,” Rios said. “Playing on a team that you like, it’s ideal. But you never know what’s going to happen, and you have to understand the game.”