The recent move by Alex Rios from the Blue Jays to the White Sox via a waiver claim is a win for both sides.
The Blue Jays get rid of an albatross of a contract which they had to get out from under if they are going to have any chance of competing going forward, and the White Sox get the one thing they have been searching for in vain for years on end: a viable option in center field.
Sure, the White Sox are overpaying, but unlike the Jake Peavy deal, in which they had to overpay *and* give up premium prospects, to get Rios the Sox did not have to give up any young, cost-controlled talent, so if they play their cards right they will be more than making up for the extra money they are paying Rios by making good use of the talent they did not give up.
But the bottom line is that beggars can’t be choosers. The Sox desperately needed a centerfielder, and Rios is a legit defender in center, with his career 12.8 UZR/150 as a centerfielder, and his cannon arm: since 2004 only Jeff Francoeur and Alfonso Soriano have more outfield assists than Rios’s 55.
Moreover, Rios’s bat will play in center, given his underappreciated defensive talents. The problem for the Blue Jays is that they were playing him in right, due to the even-more-of-an-albatross contract they’d given to Vernon Wells.
But more than just finally giving the South-siders a CF, the move also gives Kenny Williams all kinds of options. The money owed to Peavy and Rios isn’t really that big a deal, given that if the Sox want, they can clear tons of salary this offseason by letting both Jim Thome and Jermaine Dye walk as free agents, if they want to.
Given Kenny’s enduring fondness for the kind of veterans who got him a ring in 2005, I see a much more likely scenario as being the Sox picking up Dye’s option and resigning Thome to a cheaper deal, if he’s willing, or else, picking up Dye, letting Thome walk, and moving Dye to DH, and leaving an outfield of Scott Podsednik, Rios, and Carlos Quentin.
But in any case, the Rios acquisition combined with Dye’s option gives Kenny a lot of flexibility this offseason to see what’s out there and pursue a wide variety of pieces which he can then shift around to fit different combinations. By finally filling the gaping hole in center, Rios makes this possible.
As for the Jays, the problem wasn’t so much Rios’s deal in isolation, as the fact that the team was on the hook for at least *four* seemingly un-movable contracts, at positions that are normally the easiest to fill on the free agent market, severely restricting flexibility and completely hindering the team’s ability to retool. In actuality, Rios’s contract was probably the least bad of the four (the others being Wells, Rolen, and Overbay), but given the overall situation, and the fact that Wells is absolutely never ever going anywhere ever, moving Rios if at all possible can only help the team going forward.
In today’s market, Rios’s annual salary can probably sign 3 players who can put up similar production, and given that the Jays were clearly not going to win with the present model, given the division they play in, breaking up the team in some way, no matter how, is the only way to go.
People may wonder why a deal that was so bad for the Jays could be so good for the Sox, but it all comes down to context – the Sox play in a winnable division in which they already have a relatively strong team, desperately needed a centerfielder, and have upcoming payroll flexibility, whereas the Jays play in the AL East, which now has three other juggernauts, had a lot of bad contracts all at once, and have less payroll flexibility in general due to lower revenues and the Canadian dollar.