The Pirates desperately need a right fielder right now. So desperately that Brandon Inge has been getting semi-regular platoon time as a right fielder against left handed pitching. If Brandon Inge is getting semi-regular playing time with an MLB franchise, something is wrong somewhere. David Schoenfield wrote an article recently arguing that the Pirates should seek a trade for Giancarlo Stanton due to their needs in right field, and the way Stanton could fulfill those needs while providing decent protection in the lineup for Andrew McCutchen. Tom wrote a great article covering why the Pirates shouldn’t go for Stanton, but if not Stanton who? Enter Alex Rios.
Rios has produced consistently for the last couple of years. He hasn’t put up the gaudy power numbers of Stanton, but he’s posted a triple slash of .304/.334/.516 for an OPS of .850 in 2012, and this year he’s hitting a very solid .284/.344/.472, with an OPS of .816.
Rios has played in at least 145 games every year since 2010, so his health is less of a concern than Stanton’s, who for all his ability as a player has had struggles with his health during his career. The Pirates have had an experience with a good power bat brought in at the trade deadline that missed a lot of games, when Derek Lee came to town in 2011, when he played, he absolutely mashed to the tune of .337/.398/.584, but he only played in twenty-eight games for the Pirates that year after the trade deadline, and then retired.
One of the drawbacks of signing Rios as compared to signing Stanton is that Rios is only signed through 2014, while Stanton wouldn’t become a free agent until 2017. While that could play more in favor of dealing for Stanton, we have to remember that Gregory Polanco is likely going to be in the big leagues by the end of 2014, so the long-term services of Rios aren’t necessarily the single most important thing for the Pirates, if they could swing a deal for Rios without dealing away Polanco, the potential short-term services of Rios followed by years of Polanco would be preferable to the potential long-term services of Stanton.
The real question comes down to what the Pirates would have to give up to get Rios in Pittsburgh for a year and a half. Would it be worth the trouble to send a package of highly rated prospects over to Chicago for that? The market hasn’t shaped up quite yet, but it does sound like multiple teams are interested in Rios. He has a six team no trade clause which could also muddy the waters of what it would take to acquire him, but expect the Pirates to give up a couple of good prospects to get him if they pull the trigger.
Hopefully they wouldn’t be forced to sell the farm (or Jameson Taillon) and if the right price is offered, they should absolutely go for a trade with Chicago. Alex Rios would provide what the Pirates need (a starting right fielder with some pop) but without blowing up the farm system (and subsequently the future success of the franchise) to get him.