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Rangers decline Alex Rios's option for 2015; should the Yankees be interested?

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Would the veteran right fielder be a fit for the 2015 Yankees or not?

Jonathan Daniel

One of the names that was linked to the Yankees as a possible trade candidate around the time of this year's Trade Deadline was Alex Rios, the former Blue Jays and White Sox outfielder who was going nowhere with a last-place Rangers club this year. Nothing ended up coming from the rumors, and Rios did not actually end up going anywhere at all. He was in the last year of the seven-year, $69.84 million extension he signed with Toronto in 2007, but he did have a a $14 million option of the 2015 campaign if the Rangers chose to exercise it.

Well, that's not happening, per Jon Heyman. Texas has chosen to pay Rios the $2 million buyout to release him from his contract and make him a free agent. It makes sense for the Rangers, who don't know exactly what Rios would have brought them in 2015 while they were working to rebound from an abysmal season this year. However, it does open up another opportunity for the Yankees should they choose to pursue another outfielder.

The 2014 campaign was a disappointment as well for the 33-year-old Rios, whose home run power abruptly disappeared as he hit .280/.311/.398 with a 92 wRC+ and barely-above-replacement-level play. The righty did hit 30 doubles in 131 games, but the mere total of four homers was easily his lowest since his rookie season in 2004. He wasn't walking much, and his strikeout rate of 17.9% was also his highest since his much-younger days (2006).

Nonetheless, it would be surprising if Rios's skills truly deteriorated that quickly. He had a miserable 2011, but in 2012 with the White Sox, he played 157 games and hit .304/.334/.516 with a career-best 25 homers and 126 wRC+, not to mention 4.2 fWAR. In 2013, he slipped to a .278/.324/.432 triple slash in 156 games with 18 homers and a 104 wRC+. He was a three-win player just a year ago; declines happen, but could he really be replacement level so soon? Additionally, while his -0.8 dWAR and -4.3 UZR/150 were unattractive, his +5.4 FRAA suggests that his defense might not be quite as bad as it seems. Rios would seem like a good buy-low candidate on a contract that would not be too expensive.

On the Yankees though, it just doesn't seem like Rios is a fit. Even if for some reason they don't get a third baseman like Chase Headley in the off-season, the only possible scenario wherein Rios would fit into the everyday lineup is if he plays right field while Carlos Beltran DHs and Alex Rodriguez starts at third base, which is just asking for trouble given A-Rod's injury history. Martin Prado could play third, but then A-Rod or Beltran's not in the regular lineup. A situation where one of A-Rod, Beltran, Prado, or Rios isn't in the hypothetical regular lineup just doesn't seem likely. Obviously, you can't count on all of them to stay healthy for the full year, but you have to take the player's perspective into consideration. The logjam seems like something Rios would want to avoid, and he doesn't appear to be a good enough player at this point to really work to win him over.

If Rios wanted to accept a bench role, a short, low-cost contract might be in order, but chances are he is going to want regular playing time. Some other team needing outfield help is likely to give that option to Rios. Given the red flags around Rios at the moment, it's hard to feel too bad about the Yankees probably not pursuing Rios this off-season.