Lost in the Edwin Jackson trade this morning is that Chicago’s shakeup didn’t end there, as the White Sox have benched center fielder Alex Rios and called up Alejandro De Aza from Triple-A.
It’s unclear how long the benching will last, but the fact that Rios is owed $38 million for the next three seasons as part of the long-term contract the White Sox claimed off waivers in mid-2009 makes it unlikely to last that long. And trading Rios would almost surely involve eating a significant portion of that remaining money.
Rios’ time on the bench may be determined by how well De Aza plays after forcing his way into the White Sox’s plans by hitting .322 in 99 games at Triple-A. He also hit .309 there last season, but De Aza isn’t a prospect at 27 years old and brings minimal power and poor plate discipline along with the nice batting averages and plus speed.
He’s far more likely to be a solid role player than an impact guy and platooning the left-handed-hitting De Aza with the right-handed-hitting Rios might be a decent solution in the short term at least. Rios recovered from a disastrous 2009 to hit .284 with 21 homers, 34 steals, and a .791 OPS last season, but has fallen apart this year with a .208 batting average and .555 OPS in 97 games to rank among MLB’s least valuable regulars.
According to Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the Cardinals are keeping an eye on outfield prospect Luis Robert. The 19-year-old left his native Cuba last November and is expected to command interest from multiple MLB teams as he approaches free agency. Goold adds that the Cardinals sent scouts to evaluate Robert’s workouts in the Dominican Republic as recently as last week.
There’s still a good chance that the club won’t get a shot at signing him; as Craig mentioned last month, it seems likely that Major League Baseball won’t declare Robert a free agent until after June 15. By July 2, the new Collective Bargaining Agreement’s policies on international bonuses will go into effect, handcuffing teams with the maximum penalty for bonuses to a $300,000 signing figure for any available international prospect. It’s designed to effectively take away those teams’ abilities to sign additional international talent, and the Cardinals have already spent a reported $9.35 million in bonuses on Venezuelan outfielder Victor Garcia, Cuban outfielders Jonatan Machado and Randy Arozarena and Cuban right-hander Johan Oviedo.
Until the cutoff in mid-June, the Cardinals are likely to continue actively scouting other international talent, including Robert. MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez quotes an anonymous National League scouting director who describes Robert as the No. 2 talent behind Japanese wunderkind Shohei Otani. The 19-year-old hit .286/.319/.397 with a .716 OPS during a 16-game run in the Canadian-American League in 2016, following up an impressive three-year tenure with the Ciego de Avila in the Cuban National Series from 2013-2015.
ESPN’s Jesse Rogers reported over the weekend that the Cubs and reliever Pedro Strop agreed to a contract extension. He’ll remain with the Cubs through 2018 and the new deal includes a club option for the 2019 season as well. Per Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune, Strop will earn $5.85 million in 2018 and the club option is worth $6.25 million with a $500,000 buyout. The two sides already avoided arbitration earlier this month, agreeing on a $5.5 million salary for the 2017 season.
Strop, 31, has been a very reliable reliever for the Cubs over the last three years. He has a combined 2.65 ERA with 212 strikeouts and 69 walks over 176 1/3 innings in that span of time.
The Cubs replaced Aroldis Chapman with Wade Davis, so Strop and Hector Rondon will be bridging the gap to Davis this coming season.
Strop joined the Cubs along with Jake Arrieta in the July 2013 trade that sent Steve Clevenger and Scott Feldman to the Orioles. That trade panned out well for the Cubs.