Numerous MLB sources have reported tha Alex Rios has been claimed by the Chicago White Sox. Whether or not he gets traded is still a mystery, but we should know as early as Tuesday.
Rios has been a highly touted phenom since his breakout season in 2006, where he posted a clip of .302/.349/.516 while playing stellar defense in right field, shown by his 13.7 UZR/150.
He followed his breakout year in 2007 with a campaign that featured an OPS+ of 122 and a career high 24 home runs with 17 stolen bases.
Rios signed a 7 year $69 million contract extension in 2008, but a staph infection on his leg put him on the DL for a month. Rios did post a respectable 111 OPS+ along with a career high 32 stolen bases along with 11 home runs after the all-star break.
2009 has not been kind to Rios. He's currently hitting .262 with a .328 wOBA and the team seems to be eager to dump his expensive contract.
By looking just at the numbers on the outside, it appears that Rios is regressing at age 28. The question is, how many players start regressing in their prime, especially hitters?
A simple look at his career BABIP should tell you that this year has been a lot of bad luck.
Rios' career BABIP goes this way.
You could say that Rios has been lucky before in his previous seasons. The league average BABIP is around .300. Rios' BABIP was as much as 46 percentage points higher than that. But he's done this over a course of 3 seasons, so he might naturally be a guy who gets his hits to fall.
His LD% is fairly pedestrian, just slightly above league average. In fact, he's more of a ground ball hitter than he is a fly ball hitter.
However, Rios' LD% is 2% lower than his career norm at 18.1%. That's 7.2 less line drives hit by Rios than his career norm. Since Rios hits .726 on line drives, he should have 5.2 more hits than he should right now.
I know you're thinking, only 5 hits, how big of a difference is that?
With the extra 5 hits, Rios would be hitting a much better .273 with a .326 OBP.
Still not even league average, but much better right? There's also many other factors we can incorporate, but I'm not going to do that.
Even with his below average year with the bat and barely average year on defense, Rios is still a productive player. So far, he's contributed 1 more win than the average player this year for Toronto.
In previous seasons, he's contributed as many as 5.5 wins above replacement.
So how valuable would he be to the White Sox?
The answer is - very valuable.
The fact of the matter is, the White Sox haven't had a full-time CF who posted an OPS above .800 since 2004, Aaron Rowand's career year.
Rios will find himself with a lot more home runs at U.S. Cellular Field, which features smaller gaps and fences that are only 330 feet from home plate down the line.
The HR/FB rate of U.S. Cellular Field is around 11%. Rios has averaged an 8.6% at Skydome.
So that's a 2.5% jump in that category, which should result in at least 5 more home runs, if not more.
Rios will most likely play center field with the White Sox and he features a career 12.8 UZR/150 there, although it is only a 100 game sample size.
If Rios can be the hitter he was two years ago, he can easily become a 30/30 man in Chicago while playing a stellar defense. Add in the fact that he will play in a weaker division without the likes of the Yankees and Red Sox 38 times a year and he should play much, much better.
If Kenny Williams can lure in Rios for pretty much nothing while helping Riccardi free a lot of money from his books, it could be a great thing for all three parties.
Rios needs a fresh start, the White Sox need a CF, and the Blue Jays need to dump salary.
Win, win for all.