Commentary

Rios stays valuable with Rangers

Trade opens up spot for rookie Avisail Garcia to shine with White Sox

Updated: August 10, 2013, 11:04 AM ET
By Tristan H. Cockcroft | ESPN.com

Another trade, another lost opportunity at a cross-league fantasy free agent.

Alex Rios, a player NL-only owners might have hoped would switch leagues, was traded Friday. But he reportedly didn't reach National League teams via the waiver process -- American League squads get first crack at players within their league -- and landed with the Texas Rangers, the team responsible for the claim. The Rangers received Rios and $1 million to help cover some of the more than $17 million remaining on his contract and in exchange will send a player to be named later to the Chicago White Sox.

[+] EnlargeAlex Rios
Otto Greule Jr./Getty ImagesAlex Rios is hitting .360 in August with four stolen bases. He has 12 homers this season, but just six since May 1.

It's a win-win scenario for players on both teams in fantasy terms, an opportunity created for a top prospect in Avisail Garcia and a more stat-friendly environment for Rios.

Before even getting to the ballpark implications, merely changing teams from the White Sox to the Rangers benefits Rios. The White Sox have averaged merely 3.67 runs per game, the Rangers 4.35, this season, and the Rangers have averaged 37.9 team plate appearances to the White Sox's 37.4. That means a possible small increase in PAs as well as a slight boost to Rios' runs scored and RBI opportunities. There's little doubt that the Rangers represent a stronger supporting corps.

That said, Rios' arrival doesn't vastly improve the Rangers but rather stabilizes their lineup. Remember, Nelson Cruz was the team's right fielder until four days ago, and Rios will slide into that role, as well as Cruz's No. 5-6 spot in the lineup. In other words, any concern you might have had about the Rangers as a team should be allayed, as Rios' .293/.332/.476 triple-slash rates and .346 weighted on-base average since the beginning of 2012 compare favorably to Cruz's .264/.324/.481 rates and .343 wOBA.

As for the ballparks, don't be quick to read too much into Rios' career .255/.301/.342 rates at Rangers Ballpark, numbers considerably beneath his .281/.321/.458 stats at U.S. Cellular Field. Both venues compare favorably in terms of runs scored and home runs, per our Park Factors page, and there have been 16 more total home runs hit at Rangers Park (122) than U.S. Cellular (106) this year. If there was any place fantasy owners might have hoped for Rios to land, Texas would have ranked high on that list. The No. 9 outfielder on our Player Rater, he stands an excellent chance at maintaining top-20 status, at worst, in his new digs.

Don't ignore the impact of Rios' arrival on the Rangers' defense. Since the beginning of 2012, Rios has 1 Defensive Run Saved and back-to-back seasons with a positive Ultimate Zone Rating; Cruz had minus-14 Defensive Runs Saved and has had a negative UZR in both seasons. Rios could represent a benefit -- albeit a slight one -- for more fly ball-oriented Rangers pitchers like Joe Nathan (54.5 percent rate this season), Alexi Ogando (42.9) and Yu Darvish (38.9).

Garcia, owned in 0.1 percent of ESPN leagues, warrants a pickup in AL-only and deep mixed leagues following the departure of Rios. Acquired in the July 30 three-team trade that included the Boston Red Sox, Garcia managed .370/.469/.556 rates in eight games for the White Sox's Triple-A affiliate in Charlotte after batting .374/.410/.537 in 33 games for the Detroit Tigers' Triple-A affiliate in Toledo before that. Long hailed as a Miguel Cabrera clone, his fantasy owners shouldn't assume an instant such translation -- nor anything even close to it -- but the right-handed slugger has a good amount of pop and the right ballpark to exploit it.

Be forewarned, however, that Garcia might be slump prone or could struggle to adapt to big league pitching, at least initially. He is a notorious free swinger, his walk rate 4.0 percent and strikeout rate 20.7 percent during his minor league career, so if there's an area in which he needs to improve, that's it.

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