The Texas Rangers were interested in Alex Rios before last week’s non-waiver trading deadline. They really needed him after losing All-Star slugger Nelson Cruz.
Texas acquired the Chicago White Sox right fielder Friday after putting in an earlier waiver claim for Rios, and four days after Cruz was suspended for the final 50 games of the regular season.
“He’s good for us, and we had interest in him prior to learning of Nelson’s suspension and continued to have interest in, and were able to work out a deal,” Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said on a conference call. “We had interest either way.”
The Rangers also got cash while sending the White Sox a player to be named later or cash.
Cruz, the 2011 AL championship series MVP, was among 13 players disciplined Monday by Major League Baseball following its investigation into the Biogenesis clinic accused of distributing banned performance-enhancing drugs. He was leading the Rangers with 27 home runs and 76 RBIs.
Going into a four-game series at Houston starting Friday night, the Rangers had won nine of 10 games. Texas, a playoff team the past three seasons, made up six games in the AL West in that span to tie Oakland for the division lead.
Daniels said Rios wasn’t expected to make it to Houston for the start of the series opener, but should be in the lineup Saturday. The Rangers have to make a 25-man roster move when the 32-year-old Rios reports.
Rios is batting .277 with 12 home runs, 26 stolen bases, 55 RBIs and 57 runs scored. He joined the White Sox after he was claimed off waivers from Toronto on Aug. 10, 2009.
“For myself, I’m going to go to a team that’s fighting for first place and I think that’s going to be refreshing,” Rios said. “They’re trying to win the division and go to the playoffs, so let’s see what happens.”
Another benefit for Texas is that Rios is signed for $12.5 million in 2014 with a club option of $13.5 million for 2015. Cruz and David Murphy, another corner outfielder, are both eligible for free agency after the season.
“That certainly adds a layer to it for us,” Daniels said.
Asked how the acquisition of Rios might affect Cruz’s future with the Rangers, Daniels responded, “One’s not related to the other” and that the team would make a decision on the potential return of Cruz at the appropriate time.
“That’s not now,” Daniels said. “Right now, we’re focused on putting the best club we possibly can out there, and it’s an unrelated situation.”
White Sox general manager Rick Hahn said it wasn’t easy trading Rios.
“It’s difficult to let a player like Alex Rios go,” he said. “He in my opinion was outstanding for us on and off the field during his stay in Chicago.”
The Rios trade is the next step for the retooling White Sox, who went into Friday’s day-night doubleheader against Minnesota last in the AL Central.
“We looked so good in spring training, we actually thought we were going to be contenders,” Rios said. “It’s just bizarre what happened. I can’t point a finger at what exactly happened. It’s just one of those years.”
Rios’ departure creates an opening for Avisail Garcia, the promising outfielder acquired from Detroit as part of a three-team deal that sent Jake Peavy from the White Sox to Boston before the July 31 non-waiver deadline. Garcia was recalled from Triple-A Charlotte, where he hit .370 in eight games.
The trades also give the White Sox some economic flexibility to use on the draft, international players or free agency.
“It’s going to go to making the big league club better for the long haul, no doubt,” Hahn said. “One of the positives of an unfortunate season like this is we’re going to have an opportunity to spend a lot more money on amateur talent. That’s going to be the first couple of line items next year — what we spend on the draft and what we spend on that internationally. Even after that, given the flexibility that’s opened up, there will be the opportunity whether it be via trade or free agency to perhaps take on even more money.”
Texas manager Ron Washington called Rios a solid outfielder and tremendous base runner. His 26 stolen bases were tied for sixth in the AL with Rangers center fielder Leonys Martin, and four behind team leader Elvis Andrus.
“What it does is just add to what the dynamic already is here,” Washington said. “I don’t think the void that Nelson left can be filled. (Rios) is a solid baseball player and we just want him to come in and play his game. He fits in well, extremely well.”