Kenny Williams once again made a bold move yesterday by winning a claim on Alex Rios and acquiring the talented outfielder for nothing, well nothing other than 5 years and 60.7M or 6 years and 73.2M remaining on his contract.
In the short term at least it is a terrific move for the Sox. Currently 3 games behind Detroit in the AL Central standings, adding Rios should be worth 1 -1.5 wins or so over Scott Podsednik in CF. Long term is Rios really going to be worth his hefty contract through 2014 (13.5M option in 2015 with a 1M buyout)?
I'd say it's pretty questionable. Rios has gone from being under-rated in response to his perceived lack of growth to actually being over-rated when looking at his earned value in 2007-8 and trying to project it forward. Courtesy of Fangraphs let's look at what Rios has earned in terms of batting value, fieldling value, and dollars earned over the years:
2004 -4.4 17.4 $7M
2005 -11.3 8.4 $2.7M
2006 13.5 9.3 $12.1M
2007 20.9 8.9 $18.9M
2008 11.4 23.9 $24.6M
2009 -.6 .1 $4.9M
Hmm...... don't his 2007 offensive season and 2008 defensive season look like outliers here? Remember Rios is 28 so while he shouldn't be entering his decline phase yet he has probably established who he is.
Rios basic problem on offense is primarily based on his refusal to walk, leaving his OBP very batting average dependent. This year his line has dropped to .264/.317/.427 - very poor offensive numbers for a corner OF. The reason for the fall in batting average can be attributed to a decline in BABiP from his career mark of .328 to .294.
Why the roughly 10% decline in BABiP? Perhaps it's coincedence but Rios' line drive rate is 9% below his career rate as well. Rios hasn't returned to his extreme ground ball hitting ways of 2004-5, but the last couple of years he's hit more ground balls than in 2006-7. More ground balls, more infield pop ups - moving to the Cell isn't going to fix that. Those 17 hrs hit the first 3 months of 2007 seem like a distant memory, the last 2 years and a month Rios has hit 36 total home runs.
While the White Sox home park, the 'Cell', is a very good hitters park it isn't significantly better than the Rogers Center in Toronto. For what it's worth over Rios career he's hit a HR every 30 at bats at home and every 57 at bats on the road - a huge variance. His career OPS on the road is .735 over 100 points less than at home (.839) and is dreadful for a RF.
Defensively Rios is a very fine player posessing an outstanding arm and plus range at least for RF. It isn't clear where the Sox play him long term or what his defensive value will look like in CF. Certainly this year stationed between Jermaine Dye and a gimpy Carlos Quentin he'll have every opportunity to show how his range plays in CF. It isn't clear why his defensive numbers are down so much this year, he should be expected to return to his 2005-7 level, not 2008 which stands out rather dramatically from the rest of his career.
If we assume Rios settles in at roughly 12 runs above average on offense & 9 runs above average on offense and remains as durable as he has been he's going to earn roughly between 3.5-4.5 wins above a replacement player. Based on the slow down in market spending this past winter and what we should anticipate this winter I'd guess that suggests Rios will earn around 15M. Considering his actual contract pays him 12.5M per that's a win, but not a huge win. If he moves back to RF or misses any time with injury the contract is going to be pretty neutral in terms of value he generates.
Who knows, maybe the general malaise that seems to have fallen over the Toronto clubhouse has negatively affected Rios. That certainly won't be a problem in Ozzie Guillen's clubhouse, perhaps being in a pennant race will jump start Rios and he'll take off the next couple of months. More than likely though long-term Rios is going to settle in as being a good player, but more of a complementary player than one you build around. I just wonder how many 'good' players are going to make 60M dollars between 2010-2014.