As of sometime yesterday, the Texas Rangers reportedly placed Alex Rios on revocable waivers. On August 4th, the Mets designated Bobby Abreu for assignment, meaning that there is now an open 40 man roster spot. So, should the Mets put in a waiver claim on Rios?
First let’s get an idea about what waivers means. After the July 31st trade deadline, until seasons end (meaning after the end of the World Series), no player can change teams unless they are released or they go through the waiver process. That process is fairly simple. Every team has the right to put their players on revocable waivers. Once that’s done, every other team in Baseball has 47 hours to put in a claim on that player. If a team puts in that claim, the team that currently has the player has three options; they can pull the player off of waivers, work out a trade with the claiming team or release the player to the claiming team. Matt Thornton is an example of that as he was placed on waivers by the Yankees, claimed by the Nationals and the Yankees simply allowed him to go to the Nationals without compensation. If the player clears waivers, he can be traded to any other team for players not on the 40 man roster or other players that have cleared waivers.
With all of that in mind, the Mets are in a perfect situation to make a claim on Rios. The Mets need a corner outfielder. Chris Young has been a disaster considering the amount of money they signed him to and without Young, the Mets are just putting together whatever mix of players they can fit into left field. Rios would be able to man that position for the remainder of the year at a cost of approximately 3.8 million dollars. On top of that, Rios is signed through next season, but only via team option, which can be bought out for one million at the end of the year. In summation, if the Mets acquire Rios and he plays poorly, it will only cost them 4.8 million dollars. If he plays well and they decide to pick up his option, then the Mets will have a solid player at 13.5 million dollars for next season and can focus their off season efforts on finding a bat at another position, such as shortstop.
So there is no real liability in terms of Rios’ contract, but is he still worth the claim as a ballplayer? Rios is currently hitting .296 with a 742 OPS. That OPS is 23 points lower than his career mark, while his batting average is 17 points higher than his career to this point. This can be explained by a decrease in home runs this season. For his career, per 162 games, Rios has hit approximately 17 home runs, with about 34% of his hits ending up as extra bases. This year, about 28% of his hits have been for extra bases, because he’s only hit four home runs. He does currently lead the American League in triples, so he is still productive as a hitter, even if his power has dissipated. He’s still productive on the base paths as he’s well on his way to his third consecutive 20 plus stolen base season. He’s struggled a little bit defensively this season, but his range and arm are still above average. Basically, Rios isn’t the same player he was, but he’s also a pretty solid everyday player. For context, acquiring Rios would be similar to the Shawn Green acquisition in 2006, another waiver transaction, except that Rios has still retained his speed, which Green hadn’t by the time he came to the Mets.
When you finally consider that the Mets might not have to give up much, if anything for Rios then it’s really a no brainer for them to put in the claim. If the Rangers just dump his contract on the Mets, then they can choose not to pick up his option if he doesn’t perform. If the Mets make the claim, they could also block a team in front of them from making a claim (the Pirates come to mind as they need an outfielder now that Andrew McCutchen is hurt) as the waiver rules stipulate that if multiple teams make a claim on a player, the team with the lower winning percentage is given the claim.
All of this comes down to something simple. Does Sandy Alderson believe in this team or not? If he believes that they legitimately have a shot to play significant games down the stretch of the season, he will put in the claim on Rios and see where it goes. If he doesn’t, we’ll hear that Rios has been claimed by a team with a better record than the Mets, or that he passed through waivers. In the end, the Mets should make the attempt to acquire Rios as there is really no downside to the acquisition. As the saying goes, the ball is now in Alderson’s court.