CLEVELAND -- Alex Rios and Neal Cotts are both Texas Rangers -- for now. With the MLB non-waiver trade deadline in the rear view mirror, both men sat in the visitor's locker room within Cleveland's Progressive Field exhibiting a giant sigh of relief as they awaited the first game of a 10-game road trip.
Having spent the last several days receiving phone calls from his agent and packing up some belongings in the event he was traded, the 33-year-old Rios sat quietly in front of his far-corner locker, soaking in the last few moments before taking batting practice, a pair of batting gloves perched on his lap and his bat resting against his knee.
"I'm not off the hook yet," said Rios, acquired by Texas a season ago after the non-waiver deadline had past. "There's still another month to go, but I'm content and focused on the things I have to do."
For Cotts, the rumors and speculation surrounding the deadline had a greater effect on his wife, Jaime, than it did on him. "She gets worried," the 34-year-old reliever said.
As recent as the day of the deadline, it was of the belief that Rangers general manager Jon Daniels had been shopping his impending free agents in hopes of obtaining younger, quality talent for the team's farm system. Though dealing with depressed power numbers compared to past seasons and some recent injuries (including a sprained ankle and bruised knee), Rios was the subject of rumors that included no fewer than five interested organizations, some of which may have been impacted by a no-trade clause that is written into his current contract. Ultimately, no deals were consummated as nothing reached past the proposal stage. Rios inferred that his no-trade clause never came into play due to the level of the discussions that took place. Nevertheless, the trade deadline has become old hat for the veteran outfielder, having been surrounded by rumors over much of the last two years as teams look to bolster their lineup for the last two months of the season.
"When people are looking for -- not only for me, but other players -- it's a compliment," Rios said of the speculation. "It means those teams believe you can help them achieve what they want to do. I would consider that a compliment."
Both Rios and Cotts stated that they wish to return to Texas next season despite their struggles in 2014. Cotts will maintain his role as Ron Washington's primary late-inning left-handed reliever. In 51 appearances, the veteran has provided solid production, striking out 51 batters in 47 innings pitched to go with a 3.45 ERA and a 1.362 WHIP. Rios will play in the outfield and continue to hit in the middle of the Texas lineup. He's carrying a .304 batting average into August despite having only four home runs to go with his 43 runs batted in.
"I would like come back here," said Cotts. "I enjoy the team and the organization. We'll be a much better ball club next year. It's a tough division and will be for years to come, but there will be pieces that we don't have [this season] being back and being healthy."
The Rangers are believed to have interest in bringing Cotts back in 2015 despite his impending free agency. They have a $13.5 million team option on Rios for next year to pair with a $1 million buyout.
"I don't have to prove anything," Rios said. I've played this game for quite a bit now. I think I've had an OK career. It's their decision whether they want to bring me back or not. I'm not here to judge; I'm here to focus on playing the game. If they have plans for me, that's great. If they don't, that's their opinion or their way to see things. I'm here to play the game."