Alex Rios came to the Chicago White Sox with great expectations. However, Rios has underwhelmed in the two-plus years since being acquired from the Toronto Blue Jays. After providing a bit of hope last year with reasonable run production, Rios underwhelmed like few others in the MLB.
Rios reached base less often than all but two other players in the MLB. That defines not being able to be counted upon.
Since the White Sox can't count on Rios, General Manager Kenny Williams would be well-advised to dump Rios. Some team would be willing to take his big contract. Williams certainly can't afford it.
Following are some reasons to dump Rios, along with some possibilities for trading him.
One cannot avoid thinking about the terrible numbers that Rios produced this season. While his .227 batting average was bad enough, Rios was third from the bottom in the MLB in on-base percentage (.265). Even worse, Rios placed last in the MLB in OPS (.613). Adam Dunn's.569 OPS was worse, but he fell short of 500 plate appearances.
Rios did a miserable job producing runs. His runs scored (64) and RBI (44) were his lowest numbers since his rookie year. Even Juan Pierre drove in more runs than Rios. And Pierre isn't expected to drive in runs—2011 was only the second time he drove in 50 runs—but someone had to do it for the poor-hitting White Sox.
Meanwhile, Williams acquired Rios to drive in runs.
Time to find someone else to produce runs.
While one might think that Rios will rebound in 2012, the evidence suggests that he won't.
First, Rios hasn't produced enough good seasons to show that he'll give the White Sox a good season in 2012. In eight seasons, Rios has only three years in which he has driven in 80 runs. The White Sox would want to get that figure from him—especially with the possibility of Carlos Quentin leaving—but the odds are that they won't. In four seasons, Rios has had an OPS of .780 or better. That he'll do it again is a coin flip.
Next, consider that Rios will be 31 on opening day in 2012. His best years may be behind him. A good year for Rios might be collecting 60 RBI and a .740 OPS. Williams may be looking at a loss on the payroll rather than an asset if he decides to keep Rios.
In Rios, Williams is looking at a player who costs more than he's worth. Rios is due $12 million in 2012 and $12.5 million in each of the two ensuing seasons. This is way too much to pay someone who doesn't produce.
In essence Rios' numbers suggest that he owes the White Sox. Rios had a -1.5 WAR, which suggests that he owes the White Sox $18.75 million. This figure shows that Rios has given little return on the investment by the White Sox in him.
Williams is looking at a good amount of dead weight on the White Sox's payroll. Among those pulling dead weight is Rios. On the payroll, Williams is looking at $89 million committed to 12 players—including Rios.
Williams could trim some fat by trading Rios.
Paying Rios for not producing keeps the White Sox from paying someone who could produce for the White Sox. One of those players is Mark Buehrle.
Buehrle becomes a free agent this offseason, and Williams faces a tough road to re-signing him. Buehrle would likely cost nothing less than $13 million to re-sign. With 13 players to put on the roster for 2012 and $89 million already committed, Williams has little room with which to work.
In order to retain Buehrle, Williams might like to drop some money from the payroll. To accomplish that, Williams could trade Rios. That would mostly pay for re-signing Buehrle.
The White Sox have young players waiting in the wings to play a role in the outfield. Alejandro De Aza showed great promise, hitting .320 with 23 RBI and a .920 OPS in 54 games last season. Dayan Viciedo showed flashes of brilliance at the end of the year, as well.
Although he isn't quite as young as the others, Brett Lillibridge hit 13 home runs and had a .505 slugging percentage.
As these players wait to take a bigger role, someone must step aside. While Quentin looks to be headed out the door, Williams might be better off trading Rios.
Williams has a small issue if he wants to trade Rios. In Rios's contract is a stipulation that grants him $500,000 if he is traded. That isn't too bad.
Paying that amount is worthwhile for Williams in trading a player with a big contract. Dumping a $12 million salary and ridding the White Sox of a $37 million commitment totally justifies giving Rios $500,000 in a trade. Williams has bigger money worries than that transaction.
A few teams may be willing to take Rios. The Yankees would be interested in taking Rios without care for his large contract. The Yankees might want to put Rios in left field instead of Brett Gardner, who drove in the fewest runs among left fielders.
Another team that would like Rios would be the Cincinnati Reds. The Reds found little value in the outfield this season. None of their outfielders had a batting average above .260. Only one of them hit more than 20 home runs. Dusty Baker might want to take a shot at Rios in hopes that he would provide some pop. The Great American Ball Park would be a great place for Rios to regain his stroke.
What Williams acquires for the White Sox is not as much of an issue as relieving the White Sox of Rios's contract.