Jays give away Rios, White Sox take advantage

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<a href=”http://nbcsports.msnbc.com/id/32364650/ns/sports-player_news/”>Score another one for Kenny Williams</a>.  It almost never happens that players as talented Alex Rios can be acquired without surrendering anything in return.  The White Sox didn’t even have to outbid 29 teams or surrender a draft pick.  In Rios, they brought in a player who is about to start getting expensive, but one who figures to age well and live up to his contract.

 

The Jays can point to the fact that Rios’ numbers have dipped in an effort to justify the move, and it is entirely possible that his OPS will end up declining for a third straight year this season.  However, Rios is more than just his OPS.  He’s a legitimate center fielder who had no business being shoved to a corner for a declining Vernon Wells.  He’s a very durable player whose only DL stint in six years as a major leaguer came about because of an infected leg.  He’s an excellent basestealer, succeeding on 82 percent of his attempts over the last three years.

 

Rios will make $9.7 million next year and then $49 million over the following four years, so it’s not a move without risk for the White Sox.  Still, his durability and defensive value makes a collapse very unlikely.  Even if he wanders aimlessly and never lives up to his potential, his athleticism should guarantee that he’s something close to an average regular.  It’s more likely that he’ll have a couple of All-Star campaigns in Chicago and prove to be a modest bargain.

 

The Blue Jays, meanwhile, free up $9.7 million next year to spend as they see fit.  A lot of it could go towards re-signing Marco Scutaro, who is five years older than Rios.  Those absent $12 million-$12.5 million salaries in 2011 and beyond might just help the Jays keep Roy Halladay.  Or Rios’ absence could help drive Halladay away when the team goes on to finish in fourth or maybe even fifth place next year.  The Jays simply don’t have any Rios replacements on the way.  While the farm system has been productive, it’s been developing pitchers and unathletic hitters.  The Jays’ defense, already considerably worse without Scott Rolen, just took another major hit.

 

As did the franchise as a whole.  Rios never would have been sacrificed if the Jays still weren’t paying for the awful Wells and B.J. Ryan contracts.  It’s understandable that fans were frustrated with Rios and some might even be glad to see him gone.  Still, at best this move will help Rogers Corporation.  With or without Halladay, the Jays wouldn’t seem to have any October baseball in their future.

Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez killed in a boating accident

MIAMI, FL - AUGUST 03: Jose Fernandez #16 of the Miami Marlins looks on during a game against the New York Mets at Marlins Park on August 3, 2015 in Miami, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
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Horrible news: Miami Marlins ace starting pitcher Jose Fernandez was killed in a boat crash off of Miami Beach late last night.

No details have been released yet, apart from the fact that Fernandez was one of three people killed. The Marlins have issued a statement confirming Fernandez’s death, stating that the organization is devastated and that their thoughts and prayers were with Fernandez’s family. Today’s Marlins game against the Braves has been canceled.

Fernandez was only 24 years old. Though only in his fourth season in the majors, he was easily one of the best and most exciting pitchers in the game. In his four seasons he won 38 games and posted a fantastic ERA of 2.58 while striking out 11.2 batters per nine innings. He was an electric presence on the mound and was poised to become one of baseball’s most highly-paid and entertaining superstars.

His baseball exploits seem trivial now, however. His loss at such a young age, tragic. Our thoughts today are with Fernandez’s family, the Marlins organization and those who knew and loved him.

The Nationals are NL East champs once again

PITTSBURGH, PA - SEPTEMBER 24:  Max Scherzer #31 of the Washington Nationals celebrates after clinching the National League East Division Championship after defeating the Pittsburgh Pirates 6-1 at PNC Park on September 24, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
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Another day, another division title in the bag. The Nationals coasted to a 6-1 finish over the Pirates on Saturday evening; coupled with a Mets’ loss later that night, the NL East title was theirs for the third time since 2012.

The Nationals put up a three-spot in the first and fourth innings, scoring five of six runs on productive outs while Washington starter Joe Ross tossed 2  innings of one-run ball in his second start off the disabled list. Prior to the game, manager Dusty Baker seemed reluctant to delegate a set number of pitches to the right-hander, opting instead to base Ross’s workload on his performance.

Washington’s bullpen carried the team the rest of the way, combining for 6 ⅓ scoreless frames to preserve their five-run lead. When Anthony Rendon snared a liner from Andrew McCutchen to end the game, all eyes turned to the clubhouse TVs:

Murphy had sufficient cause for worry: After trailing 10-0 through four innings, the Mets returned with an eight-run drive that culminated with Jay Bruce‘s solo shot in the ninth inning. Had Bruce hit the home run after Philadelphia closer Michael Mariot issued a pair of walks, and not before, the Mets would have edged out the Phillies, 11-10. Instead, their late-game rally ended on a fastball down the middle, and the Phillies’ 70th victory confirmed the Nats’ place atop the NL East.

While Max Scherzer donned his two-toned goggles and Bryce Harper braved the champagne showers in U.S. Olympic swimmer Katie Ledecky’s swim cap, Baker was already thinking about Sunday’s start. Against the Pirates’ Tyler Glasnow, Baker announced his plans to start 24-year-old A.J. Cole, whose seven starts have yielded a 4.68 ERA and 0.2 fWAR in 32 ⅔ innings this year.

Cole hasn’t displayed the sharpest stuff in his sophomore season, touting a high 3.03 BB/9 and 1.93 HR/9, but with the division locked down and the Cubs in sole possession of home field advantage through the NLCS, the Nationals have bigger concerns as the playoffs draw near.