Yesterday, as I’m sure everyone knows by now, the White Sox acquired Alex Rios from the Blue Jays. Rios is the best position player on the Blue Jays, is 28 years old, and is under contract for the next 5 years. You might think the cost to acquire such a player would be staggering. You might think that if Bill Smith were to have engaged the Jays to ask for a trade, he’d come back and tell us they asked for our entire AA and AAA team, along with the Mississippi River and half of downtown Minneapolis. You don’t just get star-level position players in their prime for peanuts!
Well, actually, if you’re Kenny Williams of the White Sox, you can keep your peanuts. Because the cost to acquire Rios was … nothing!
It’s a good thing nobody’s come out to question Smith about what he really means when he says the cost in prospects is too high for certain players. Because most of them move around to other teams for a lot less than he claims was demanded. You can either believe that teams are deliberately keeping the price really high just for the Twins, or you can believe that Bill Smith is a timid/incompetent negotiator, or that he’s just afraid to do anything and is lying about everything. I’m leaning towards incompetence,* with maybe a little bit of liar thrown in.
* Hey, at least he’s better than JP Ricciardi!
The Twins made their big trade acquisition Orlando Cabrera, and the White Sox went and got Peavy. I didn’t much care for either move,* but I am particularly down on Peavy this year and in the coming years. Either way, there’s no doubt that Williams was more aggressive that Smith in trying to improve his team both now and in the future. Then the Twins make their splash on the waiver wire, trading away a minor leaguer to be named later to get The Disabled List** into the starting rotation. And the White Sox respond by picking up a great outfielder in Alex Rios and give up nothing. Literally, nothing.
* Although the Cabrera trade has been working out great so far.
** As you may know, during Pavano’s tenure with the Yankees, any time a player would get injured and go on the DL, the other players would call it “going on the Pavano.” I think that’s brilliant, and I’m trying to go with the reverse here. As in, instead of calling the DL the Pavano, I’m calling Pavano the Disabled List. I’m going to go ahead and say this could be as good a nickname as “The Blackburn” is. I’m going with it.
A lot of people have been saying the Blue Jays just had to get out from under Rios’s terrible albatross of a contract. Fangraphs has been doing a good job of discounting that bullshit:
Rios is a +3.5 to +4.5 win player in the prime of his career, and he’s due to make just under $60 million for the next five years. This is a really good contract for the Jays.* Rios is an outstanding player being paid less than his market value. He’s as far from being a Wells-like albatross as you could possibly get.
Vernon Wells contract is awful, and the Jays have to regret giving it to him every single day. Alex Rios’ contract is very good, and he’s one of the pieces Toronto should be building around. They are in no way similar.
* Yeah, this was written a few weeks ago, before JP Ricciardi sealed his fate by letting this contract go. Now it’s a good contract for the White Sox.
Alex Rios has an albatross contract in the exact same way that Delmon Young has a bad attitude. Which is to say that he’s an outfielder on a team that happens to have another outfielder with a big problem — in Rios’s case, Vernon Wells is in a virtual tie with Barry Zito for the worst contract in baseball; and in Young’s case, it was actually Elijah Dukes that had all the personal off the field problems — and since most sportswriters can’t be bothered to learn the names of players who don’t play in either their own market or in a real market like Boston or New York, these guys are elided into one amalgamation of a bad guy/contract because of nothing more than proximity.
So the White Sox improve their team this year, and assuming that Rios’s BABIP regresses to something realistic, they’ve improved themselves dramatically for next year and the next few years. Rios was an All Star caliber player exactly one year ago, and he’s doing all the same things now except his BABIP has dropped. It’ll come right back, and he’ll once again be great.
Twins fans, meanwhile, get to hope that Delmon Young turns his career around (and soon) so they don’t longingly eye every ledge they pass, wondering what it’d be like to replace the worst player in baseball with an ace and a star shortstop who happens to be 3rd in the batting title race.
Sure, it was an aggressive move by Williams, and the White Sox have taken on money. It’s their money that allows them to be that aggressive — but they’re doing exactly the right thing and setting themselves up to be an absolute powerhouse in the AL Central. Kenny Williams, as a GM, is perfectly suited to a team in a large market with a large payroll and an owner that cares more about winning than money. As the Twins gain more revenue and are able to increase their payroll, it remains to be seen whether Bill Smith can adapt to the style necessary to work with dollar amounts that large, contracts that long, and players that good.
The early indications, by the way, are not good.3 comments