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.

Nick Markakis leads all NL outfielders in All-Star voting

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I would hope by now that I no longer have to preface All-Star talk with my usual “none of this matters” disclaimers, but please keep all of that in mind when I mention that Nick Markakis is leading all National League outfielders in All-Star voting.

Markakis, with 1,173,653 votes, has surpassed the slumping Bryce Harper in that category. Harper has 1,002,696 votes. The third place outfielder is Matt Kemp of the Dodgers with 925,697. Fourth place — Charlie Blackmon of the Dodgers — is like 300,000 votes back of Kemp.Yes, Markakis, Harper and Kemp may be the starting NL outfield. Brandon Nimmo — not on the ballot — should be grumpy, but he’ll get his chance I’m sure.

The thing about it: Markakis, for as unexpected as his appearance may be on this list, deserves to at least be in the top three. He’s second in WAR among National League outfielders behind Lorenzo Cain. He’s slowed down a good bit in June and he’s coming off of a 2017 season in which he had a 96 OPS+ and 0.7 WAR, but he’s having quite an outstanding season. I write that mostly so that there is a record of it come October and we’ve all forgotten it.

Seriously, though, good for Markakis, who has never made an All-Star Game. Good for Kemp too for that matter, who most people assumed was a walking — well, limping — corpse heading into this season. Good for Harper because anything that can keep up the guise of him having a good year when, in reality, he’s really not, will help his confidence as he heads into free agency.

Finally, good for the American League, who will likely get to face a far, far inferior National League team next month in Washington.

The rest of the voting: