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Sox Interested in Alex Rios... Really?

By Benjy Lipsman in News on Aug 8, 2009 6:34PM

Kenny Williams is always full of surprises. More often than not, they're the good kind -- like when he pulled Jake Peavy out of a hat at the trading deadline. But the latest rumors involving the Sox seems like a head-scratcher at first glance.

A team has claimed the Blue Jays' Alex Rios off waivers, and according to that team is most likely the White Sox. Rios, a right fielder, is batting .261 with 12 home runs and 58 RBIs.

The Jays' waived Rios in hopes of moving him and his contract after they were unable to trade Roy Halladay before the non-waivers trading deadline last week. Rios is in the second years of a seven-year, $69.35 million contract.

What we don't understand is why the Sox would want to commit that much money to a mediocre outfielder? They presently have Carlos Quentin, Scott Podsednik and Jermaine Dye as their starting outfielders with Dewayne Wise and Mark Kotsay on the bench. As with Peavy, would this be more of a move for the future? Dye is a free agent at the end of the year and 35 years old. But Dye's also perhaps the team's most consistently productive hitter. Do they envision him in center next year? Given Scotty Pods' recent play and lower salary, we'd talk about bring him back first. Given the general slide in player salaries due to the recent economic troubles, Rios' size and length of contract seem to be an unnecessary burden for adding a bat of his quality.

So what is Kenny Williams thinking? We believe that the waivers claim was a defensive move to keep Rios from landing in Detroit!

MLB's waiver rules allow teams to claim available players in reverse order of record. If Toronto waived Rios in order to trade him to Detroit, all teams with worse records than the Tigers would have to pass on claiming him. Three games back in the AL Central race, the Sox are among those team who'd have a chance to claim him first. Rios makes a lot more sense as a replacement for Magglio Ordonez, who's in the final year of his contract and showing dramatic declines in all key hitting stats (.261, 6HR, 34RBI). Given Maggs' lack of production, the Tigers might see Rios as the missing piece for this season, and the future in right field for seasons to come. But not if the Sox's GM has anything to say about it.

By making the claim, the Sox are not obligated to actually acquire Rios. But by doing so, they have shown Detroit that they'll keep him from ending up there. Unless the Sox overtake the Tigers in the standings before the end of the month, there's nothing Toronto or Detroit could do to finalize such a trade. Smart move, Kenny!