The Boston Red Sox badly need production from their outfield.
They are currently featuring the third-worst offensive OF group in the majors according to FanGraphs, and everything that went right in 2013 has seemed to go wrong in 2014. Shane Victorino has been injured most of the season. Grady Sizemore, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Daniel Nava have all struggled mightily to start the season.
Right now, Boston needs offensive production from the outfield without making a mega-trade and parting with multiple top prospects or picking up a large contract balance. Basically, a veteran outfielder in the last year of a deal that can stop the bleeding.
The Rangers have suffered numerous injuries this season, losing key figures like Matt Harrison, Derek Holland, Martin Perez, Jurickson Profar and now Prince Fielder, as the Dallas Morning News' Evan Grant details here. Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal wonders if the Rangers might be in selling mode and mentions Rios' name in this video.
Rios is an 11-year MLB veteran who has played for the Toronto Blue Jays, Chicago White Sox and now the Rangers. Going into Sunday's game, Rios featured a slash line of .316/.347/.463 which would easily make him the most productive outfielder on the Red Sox roster.
Rios' .316 average has him ranked seventh overall in outfielder batting average. Add in the three home runs and 26 RBI's, and Rios would actually lead the Red Sox in RBI. The only downside to Rios is that he really isn't a center fielder any longer, having played only one game in center since the 2011 season. Maybe Victorino could man center when he returns from injury, though.
Part of what makes the 33-year-old Rios attractive is that he is in the last season of a deal that pays him $12.5 million this season. Rios' deal includes a team option for next season at $13.5 million with a buyout of $1 million if the Sox would decide to pass.
Boston would be on the hook for roughly $8 million this season and then the $1 million for next season. At that price, they could afford to evaluate Rios this season to see how he would fit into next year's roster.
The reason the Rangers might do this deal now is the potential to save the $8-9 million left on Rios' deal, while opening up playing time for younger players like Michael Choice and potentially acquiring a prospect or two for a player in the last year of his deal.
The Rangers have had numerous pitching injuries, and the Red Sox have a plethora of minor league arms. Something along the lines of left-hander Brian Johnson and RHP Luis Diaz might be enough to entice the Rangers to do a deal. Both pitchers have upside. Johnson might be someone who could help the Rangers next season while Diaz is more of a developmental-type.
There isn't a perfect solution out there for Boston.
Matt Kemp? The 2011 version of Kemp? Sign me up. Otherwise, the Red Sox would be wise to pass at this point. Kemp played in only 179 of a possible 324 games over the 2012 and 2013 seasons due to various injuries. The bigger concerns this season are that Kemp's numbers continue to look pedestrian and looks to be struggling in center field. Until he starts hitting like he is capable of, the roughly $121 million remaining on Kemp's contract makes this a non-starter.
Andre Ethier was mentioned by The Boston Globe's Nick Cafardo as someone who might interest the Red Sox. But, unless the Los Angeles Dodgers are paying half of the potential $83 million or more remaining on Ethier's contract, it just doesn't make sense for the Red Sox in the long-term.
That's why Rios makes a lot of sense for Boston, and the Red Sox need to make a move soon before the season starts slipping away completely.