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August 9, 2013

Transaction Analysis

Rios in Texas

by R.J. Anderson and Jason Cole

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IN THIS ISSUE

American League
National League

CHICAGO WHITE SOX
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Acquired a player to be named later from the Rangers for OF-R Alex Rios and $1 million. [8/9]

MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan is reporting that Leury Garcia will be the player to be named later. Although Garcia is currently in Triple-A, he’s a member of the Rangers’ 40-man roster and would have to pass through waivers (or fall to the White Sox, who are currently second in the pecking order) in order to be traded right now. Garcia is a cheap 22-year-old middle-infield prospect, so expect this trade to be completed when the 2013 season concludes.

Best known for his fantastic defensive and speed tools, Garcia most likely profiles as a high-level utility infielder. There are some scouts who believe he’ll hit just enough to be a speedy, defensive-minded everyday shortstop, but that’s certainly not a majority opinion. The 5-foot-7 infielder is a top-of-the-line runner with plus-plus range at short and a borderline 70-grade arm. Like many young infielders, he’s prone to the occasional routine lapse in the field, though he has improved with age and should continue to progress. Garcia is a no-doubt plus glove at both middle infield spots, and he has even played some third base and center field over the last two years.

Garcia’s bat lags far behind his legs, glove, and arm. He cracked the Rangers’ Opening Day roster in a utility role this season but was optioned after hitting just .192/.236/.231 in 57 plate appearances. He currently has a .264/.314/.409 slash line over 208 Triple-A plate appearances. While the switch-hitting Dominican Republic native has some bat-to-ball ability, he also has just enough power to get him into trouble. In the past, Garcia has too often overswung rather than using a more contact-oriented approach and using his blazing speed to get on base and put pressure on defenses. He has improved in that area, though he still falls into the trap on occasion. At his peak, Garcia could be a .275-ish hitter with minimal power who provides an impact with his legs and glove. —Jason Cole

TAMPA BAY RAYS
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Designated RHP Kyle Farnsworth for assignment. [8/9]
Recalled RHP Josh Lueke from Triple-A Durham. [8/9]

At the end of the 2004 season, Farnsworth was 28 years old with a 4.78 career ERA through nearly 500 innings. The next spring, in the Annual, we wrote, "Because he's tall and athletic and can occasionally hit triple digits on the radar gun, there's always been the assumption that Farnsworth is going to turn around one of these days, find himself, and become one of the best relievers in the league." The next season Farnsworth turned it around, found himself and became one of the best relievers in the league while splitting time between Detroit and Atlanta.

The Yankees believed in the new Farnsworth enough to pay him $17 million over three years. From there Farnsworth's name became synonymous with poor pitching. He eventually escaped New York and found himself in Kansas City following another stint with Detroit. The Royals helped him nurture a cutter, the pitch that supposedly helped him enjoy a late-career renaissance. Another AL East team bought into the new Farnsworth, as the Rays signed him to a two-year deal.

Farnsworth—known as a gadabout during his Chicago days—had always been scrutinized for not having the fortitude to pitch in the late innings. He proved those critiques mistaken, or at the least outdated, during the 2011 season. The bespectacled and tattooed right-hander closed for the playoff-bound Rays, posting a 2.18 ERA with matching peripherals. Injuries caught up to him down the stretch, and carried over into the next season, causing him to miss most of the season. When he did return he had one of his patented meltdowns, which skewed his numbers the wrong way.

The Rays brought back Farnsworth for a third season, but it was hardly charming. A recent run of superficially good performances improved his numbers, yet it's clear that he's no longer a dependable late-inning option. Farnsworth no longer missed enough bats nor barrels to more than a secondary middle reliever; used in blowouts or otherwise helpless situations. There's a reasonable chance this is the end for Farnsworth. If so he proved those assumptions right, not just for one season, but for a few.

Lueke figures to hang around until Alex Cobb returns from the disabled list in the coming days. —R.J. Anderson

TEXAS RANGERS
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Acquired OF-R Alex Rios and $1 million from the White Sox for a player to be named later. [8/9]

In the days since Nelson Cruz received a 50-game suspension, due to his role in the Biogenesis investigation, the Rangers have used a combination of Engel Beltre and Craig Gentry to patch the hole in their outfield. While both are quality defensive outfielders, neither can replace Cruz's offensive prowess. Hence, Daniels decided his club—now with a healthy 80 percent chance at making the postseason—would benefit from acquiring Rios for the stretch run.

Rios is a frustrating player, who causes onlookers to worry about what he could be rather than what he is. While that air of what-if will always hang around his game, the Rangers know he can help them without further talent realization. So far this season Rios has been a league-average hitter and an above-average defender in the corner outfield. Add in his ability to swipe bases and the Rangers are getting a multidimensional player, albeit one who isn't elite at any one thing.

There is a cost to acquiring Rios, however. As part of his much-maligned contract, Rios is now in line to receive an extra $500,000 in salary due to the trade. (It's unknown how the trade kicker impacts this season's pay, though if he is due an extra $500,000 this season, then that explains the cash changing hands.) The Rangers will have Rios under contract next season for $13 million, and could have him for the 2015 season if they so desired. Unless Rios morphs into a consistent All-Star-level talent in a hurry he's probably not sticking around beyond next season. But first things first, and for Texas that means getting to the playoffs and making up for last year's disappointment. —R.J. Anderson

PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES
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Activated OF-R Casper Wells. [8/9]
Designated OF-R Delmon Young for assignment. [8/9]

The Phillies acquired Wells a few days ago, thus extending his tour of the majors. Since being waived by the Mariners near the end of spring training, Wells has spent time with four other organizations. He's only suited up for two teams, however, and has performed poorly in limited duty. Still, the expectations entering the season were that he could be a solid, cheap fourth outfielder, which is more than anyone can say about Young. By cutting Young loose now the Phillies avoid paying him some incentives tied to plate appearances. Wells probably isn't a whole lot worse than Young anyhow, and there's a possibility he does enough to convince the Phillies to keep him around for next season. —R.J. Anderson

R.J. Anderson is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see R.J.'s other articles. You can contact R.J. by clicking here
Jason Cole is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Jason's other articles. You can contact Jason by clicking here

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