White Sox general manager Rick Hahn must really want to watch an interesting stretch run.
The White Sox aided another playoff contender Friday when they sent outfielder Alex Rios to the Rangers in exchange for a player to be named later. Chicago now has its fingerprints all over the American League pennant race — even if it isn’t going to be involved — and also has some sense of direction.
The Rios trade is one that should work out for both sides, even if the Rangers enjoy the more immediate impact. Rios certainly won’t replace the recently suspended Nelson Cruz’s power, but he’s a respectable replacement for the Rangers All-Star. Rios’ average (.277) and on-base percentage (.328) are in line with Cruz’s marks — .269 average and .330 on-base percentage — and Rios will add an element of speed, both on the bases and in the field. Rios has swiped 26 bases this season, and he undoubtedly represents a defensive upgrade.
The trade is also a good one for Texas because Rios isn’t just a rental. The 32-year-old is under contract for next season and has an option for 2015, which is important given the impending free agencies of both Cruz and outfielder David Murphy.
Rios is owed $12.5 million in 2014 and has a $13.5 million option for 2015. While that’s a reasonable price for the Rangers, who are currently contenders, it was a burden for the White Sox, who are looking to replenish their system with young talent. Shedding Rios’ contract while also acquiring a young minor leaguer — perhaps infielder Leury Garcia — was a no-brainer for Chicago.
By trading Rios, the White Sox also have an opportunity to get a better look at their future, which has gotten brighter in the past month. Avisail Garcia, who was acquired in the deal that sent Jake Peavy to Boston, is ready to join Chicago’s outfield. Garcia was considered one of Detroit’s top prospects before the season, and he brings plenty of potential to a White Sox organization that features a lackluster farm system. We’ll get to see just how much he developed under the tutelage of Miguel Cabrera and Co. in Detroit.
Even before the Rios and Peavy trades — which helped bolster the Rangers, Red Sox and Tigers (who acquired Jose Iglesias to replace suspended shortstop Jhonny Peralta) — the White Sox already began a mini fire sale. They traded away relievers Matt Thornton and Jesse Crain to the Red Sox and Rays, respectively, and although Thornton has since been placed on the 15-disabled list and Crain has yet to pitch for Tampa Bay because of lingering shoulder soreness, each pitcher should be an asset to his new playoff-contending club when healthy.
The White Sox aren’t going anywhere this season, as they’re in the basement of the AL Central with one of the worst records in baseball. But rather than sit on the sideline in July and August, they’ve been busy making moves. Those moves will not only make the AL playoff race more interesting, but they could help Chicago in its quest to become relevant again.
Nice going, Mr. Hahn.