Pittsburgh apparently has the White Sox outfielder toward the top of its trade deadline wish list, according to Bruce Levine of ESPN Chicago. Rios is hitting .276/.329/.433 with 12 home runs and 49 RBI through 99 games this season. He also has 22 steals on the year and has been playing above-average defense.
Should the Pirates trade for Rios?
Chicago is likely going to ask for a bunch of young talent in order for another organization to acquire Rios, and the outfielder just doesn’t fit with the Pirates as much as some may believe.
For one, his contract is a huge turnoff. He’s making $12.5 million this year and will make the same amount in 2014. Yes, Rios is a solid outfielder, but he’s definitely a bit overpaid.
The Pirates would probably have to pay the bulk of his remaining contract, which also includes a $13.5 million club option for 2015—with a $1 million buyout. He’s an expensive addition who wouldn’t improve the team’s offense very much. As Jayson Stark of ESPN recently noted, Rios’ contract wouldn’t fit well with Pittsburgh’s projected payroll for next season.
The Pirates really need to add a right-handed bat who could preferably play right field. Pittsburgh right fielders have been the fourth-worst in baseball this season in terms of WAR, according to FanGraphs. Jose Tabata seems to be the primary guy for the moment, but he’s been hurt and not very productive in 2013.
Tabata missed 34 games earlier in the year with an oblique strain. On the year, the outfielder is hitting .266/.333/.388 with two home runs and 12 RBI through 56 games. Would Rios be a better option than Tabata? Absolutely, but the team could do some other things to improve for the final stretch of the regular season.
As Stark points out, the Pirates could refrain from trading for an outfielder and could look to acquire a first baseman instead. Pittsburgh could use an upgrade at first as well, as the franchise ranks 21st in the game in terms of WAR, per FanGraphs.
Then Pittsburgh could move Garrett Jones back to right field.
Jones is hitting .255/.305/.438 with 10 home runs and 39 RBI this season and has played 22 games in right field this year. Over the course of his career, he’s played 266 games in right—the second-most of any other position. But the Pirates would need to acquire a sufficient first baseman for this scenario to work properly.
The Pirates could decide to play Jones in right and have Gaby Sanchez at first base on a regular basis, but the team would probably be better off just standing pat at the deadline and keeping things the same. Sanchez is only hitting .237/.351/.411 with seven homers and 26 RBI through 91 games on the season.
Even if the Pirates were to acquire Rios, he likely wouldn’t produce as well as he has through this point in the season. Throughout the course of Rios’ career, he’s been a much better hitter in the first half of the year than in the second.
Here’s a look at his career splits by month, according to Baseball-Reference:
Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference
So, the Pirates would be trading talent they could use in the future to land an overpaid outfielder who probably won’t hit better than Tabata later in the season. Pittsburgh needs to find a way to overtake St. Louis in the NL Central, but acquiring Rios isn’t the way to do that. He wouldn’t make the team that much better.
Rios is not the answer for the Pirates.
All statistics in this article were obtained via FanGraphs unless otherwise noted and are current through July 27. All injury information was obtained via Baseball Prospectus, and all contract information was obtained via Cot’s Contracts.