COMMENTARY | The New York Mets may be in fourth place in the National League East, but Sandy Alderson is on the hunt for an outfield bat. It remains to be seen who the general manager is willing to offer in potential trades. What he's in search of is a proven outfielder with power that is under team control beyond next year. The Chicago White Sox are rumored to have outfielder Alex Rios on the trade block, and the Mets should be inquiring about his services.
Acquiring Rios would likely not be New York's first choice in a trade. However, he could be an attractive alternative if the prices of other available outfielders are too high. While Rios has had some issues throughout his 10-year career in the major leagues, he's shown enough consistency since the start of 2012 to justify making an investment in him.
After an awful 2011 season with the White Sox, he made necessary changes to his batting stance, and the results have been tremendous. He hit .304/.334/.516 with 25 home runs, 91 RBIs, 93 runs scored, and 37 doubles in 605 at-bats in 2012. Rios either tied or created new single-season highs in four of the above categories (batting average, slugging percentage, homers, and RBIs).
He's been going through a little slump over the last week and a half, but Rios has followed that career year with more solid numbers through his first 290 at-bats. The outfielder is currently hitting .276/.335/.459 with 11 home runs, 35 RBIs, and 18 doubles.
The biggest criticism of his fantastic 2012 probably was his 4.1% walk rate. Rios saw that as one weakness in his plate approach, and has nearly doubled that number to 7.9%. He's experienced this increase in walks because his O-Swing percentage has dropped from 33.6% in 2012 to 25.2% in 2013. He also puts the ball in play more often than a regular hitter with 20-homer power; his career strikeout rate is 15.9%. He's struck out over 100 times in a season on four occasions, but hasn't since 2009.
If the Mets aren't able to agree on a deal for a player on the level of Carlos Gonzalez or Giancarlo Stanton, Rios would fit perfectly in Flushing. At this point, Eric Young, Jr. and Juan Lagares are both proving they deserve to be parts of the future in the outfield, whether it's as starters or bench players. Marlon Byrd is having a nice year, but it's doubtful he'll be back with New York in 2014. Right field is the open position, which just so happens to be the position Rios plays.
Bringing in a right-handed hitter would give the lineup more balance moving forward. If Omar Quintanilla remains at shortstop and Ike Davis returns to first base, there needs to be another powerful righty in the lineup to team up with David Wright. The home run power of Rios is obvious, but it's his ability to hit doubles that makes him even more attractive.
He currently averages 34 doubles a season. That number has a great chance of increasing if he plays half his home games at a spacious Citi Field. He's also hitting more doubles per season over the past two years than he has since 2008 with the Toronto Blue Jays.
Rios is under team control for at least the 2014 season, and for a reasonable price. Under his current contract, the outfielder will earn $12.5 million by the end of this season, and is due to earn the same amount in 2014. There is also a team option that can be exercised for $13.5 million. If Rios gets traded, the option will increase to $14 million.
The only question in this situation would be Rios's age. He'll be 33-years-old by the time the 2014 season starts. There is a chance the Mets won't get his current production over the remainder of his contract, but that risk always exists. If he doesn't perform to expectation, at least it's only for the next year (or two if they exercise his option).
Rios may not be the best option on paper, but if prices are too high for other, more attractive outfield options, he could be a worthy backup plan. Sandy Alderson should stay in close contact with White Sox general manager Rick Hahn over the next month about Alex Rios while he surveys the rest of the trade market.
Matt Musico's Mets opinion has been featured on MLB Trade Rumors, MetsBlog, Amazin' Avenue, Mets Merized Online, and Rising Apple. He currently serves as Executive Editor of MetsMinors.net.
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