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.
Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith reports that the Blue Jays and third baseman Josh Donaldson are tabling extension talks as the two sides weren’t able to build any momentum towards agreement on a new contract.
Donaldson said, “We’re not quite there. That, to me, right now is not the major focus and I’m turning the page.” He added, “I want to play this season and really focus on winning games because, ultimately, our goal is to win a World Series and I don’t want to hinder that at all.” Donaldson also said he expects to hit free agency.
The 32-year-old avoided arbitration with the Blue Jays last month, agreeing on a $23 million salary for the 2018 season. He’s a free agent at season’s end. Last year, the three-time All-Star hit .270/.385/.559 with 33 home runs, 78 RBI, and 65 runs scored in 496 plate appearances. Donaldson missed six weeks in the first half with a calf injury, but was able to return and post terrific numbers, so his health — at least that aspect of it — shouldn’t be a concern going into spring training.
If Donaldson does reach free agency, he’ll join a star-studded group that will likely also include Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, Charlie Blackmon, and A.J. Pollock.