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.
Baseball American reports today that total attendance at minor league baseball games reached a 14-year low in 2018. Total attendance was 40,450,337. That’s a drop of 1,382,027 fans compared to last season.
Around a third of that drop is attributable to fewer scheduled games but, as Baseball America notes, even when you go to average attendance per game, there was a sharp drop off this season. BA suggests that this represents a leveling off after over a decade’s worth of large increases in minor league attendance. Which sound pretty plausible. Overall, attendance numbers are still massively above where they were 15-20 years ago, so this seems more like a correction than a real problem. The BA article goes into some good analysis of the decline.
All of that said, revenues are up for the minors, in large part because of merchandise sales and because minor league ballparks have a lot more amenities and better concessions than they used to have and fans are willing to pay for them.