Thursday, June 27, 2013

Trade Target - Alex Rios

It's hard to type this post with the giant swarms of locusts outside my house coupled with the raining tree frogs.  Or at least that's what I expect will happen shortly with the Pirates in 1st place with the best overall record in MLB at 48-30.  Last year, when the Pirates were 62-46 at their high water mark after two-thirds of the season, I assumed it was a slam dunk for them to finish over .500.  I was thinking of playoffs and those types of things.  And then....the Pirates.
So this year I'm trying to just enjoy the ride and not get too far down the road, but it's so hard to do with the team doing so well in the standings.  We're a little over a month out from the July 31st trade deadline, so it's time to scratch that Trade Target itch again.  With Jordy Mercer solidifying things for the time being at shortstop, the only other starting position that is in dire need of an upgrade is right field.
Collectively, the Pirates’ right fielders are batting .232/.294/.366 (AVG/OBP/SLG) for an OPS of 660.  That number is the 2nd lowest on the team, ahead of only the shortstop OPS of 553.  Travis Snider has seen the lion’s share of time in RF, with 195 of the 327 plate appearances by RF’s, and has put up a triple slash line of .241/.323/.345 (for an ominous 668 OPS).  Snider has hit 2 of the Pirates’ 7 home runs hit by right fielders, neither of which is good enough for a position expected to produce power.  Simply put, your starting RF'er can't have a slugging percentage less than 400.  It doesn't matter how good of a teammate he is or how well he can grill 73 steaks.  
The good news is that this is not communist China.  The Pirates will be allowed to use capitalist principles to potentially obtain an asset by trading with another organization using desirable assets.  But who is potentially out there on the market?
The team that I’ve been focusing on lately is the Chicago White Sox.  The White Sox are a veteran-heavy lineup that is starting to show its age.  They are in dire need of a rebuild and have an abysmal farm system.  Any prospect that they obtain will be an upgrade to a system that has no foreseeable impact players to help the White Sox on the near horizon.
Alex Rios is the lone bright spot offensively for the White Sox this year.  His triple slash line is .276/.335/.459 (794 OPS) with 11 HR and 13 SB’s.  As per the defensive metric Ultimate Zone Rating, he is playing a well above average RF defensively, too.  Rios has no major LHP/RHP splits, either, and is actually a little bit better against LHP's.
Rios is under contract through 2014 at $13M/year.  He also has a club option for 2014 at $14M or a buyout for $1.5M.  Over his career, Rios has averaged 3.0 Wins Above Replacement, but in 2013 he’s on pace for a 6 WAR season.  Assuming he’s good for 3.5 more WAR this year and 4.0 WAR in 2014, that’s a 7.5 WAR for him.  One WAR is worth approximately $5.0 to $5.5M dollars on the free agent market, so his value would be $37.5 to $41.25M.  Subtracting off his $18.5M of scheduled salary (all of 2014, ⅓ of 2013, $1.5M buyout in 2015), you’re looking at $19 to $23M of surplus value.
I’ve done research on surplus value of Top 100 Baseball America Prospects at other writing stops over the years.  My research found that a hitter ranked #26-50 by Baseball America is worth $18M of surplus value over their first 6 cost-controlled years.  A hitter ranked #51-100 is worth $10M.  Likewise, a pitcher ranked #11-25 is worth $18M, a pitcher ranked #26-50 is worth $15M, and a pitcher ranked #51-100 is worth $8M.  (For completeness sake, a hitter ranked #1-10 is worth $42M, a hitter ranked #11-25 is worth $33M, and pitcher ranked #1-10 is worth $27M).
So, if the Pirates were to obtain Rios without any salary relief, they could be expected to send someone like Gregory Polanco (who should move up BA’s rankings from his preseason rank of 51) or an Alen Hanson/Tony Sanchez combo (both of whom could be in the 51-100 range).  Other packages could include Nick Kingham (should be in the 51-100 range), Josh Bell (51-100 hitter range), or some major league pieces if the White Sox want some major league readiness.
One of those pieces could be Travis Snider himself, but as a left-handed hitter it would hard to include him for the Pirates.  They could still have Alex Presley as their lefty 4th/5th OF along with righty Tabata, but I think the Pirates like having as much flexibility as possible.  Jose Tabata could be included in the deal going back to the White Sox, as the Pirates may want to shed his contract and the White Sox may be lured by youth and potential, while overlooking his injury prone nature.
Although I’ve focused just on Alex Rios in this post, there are other RF options out there that I'll be looking at in upcoming weeks. Regardless, there are options out there and the Pirates can utilize their fully stocked farm system to their advantage to make a significant upgrade.


  1. Not that it makes much of a difference, but I think Rios' contract has some clauses in it that spike it a little bit if he's traded prior to January of '14. Kicks the salary up half a million per and makes the buyout ramp up 500k as well.

    Nothing fatal, clearly, but it is higher.

  2. Right, I included that into the article (w/o mentioning it). He goes from $12.5M to $13M

  3. Well, I'm seeing the buyout reported as 2 million if he's traded prior to 2014.

    In other words, I'm right. You're wrong.

  4. Scroll about 1/2 way down to see Alex Rios. Note that if he's trade IN 2014, it goes to $2M on the buyout.

    Game. Set. DBS.


    Now scroll down.