The KC Royals have apparently decided not to bring back right fielder Alex Rios despite him still being available with a little more than two weeks until opening day.
Presumably, the 35-year-old Rios would come at a bargain rate given his moderate .255/.287/.353 triple slash with only four home runs and nine stolen bases in 385 at bats in 2015. Yet, CBS Sports insider Jon Heyman has a source that informs him that the Kansas City Royals are up against their budget:
I think Heyman’s source was finding a polite way of explaining why the KC Royals aren’t interested in bringing back Alex Rios despite lacking an established starter to play at right field. Rios can’t expect to command anything close to the $11 million he earned last season after his second straight unproductive year. At most, I can see him costing around $4 million plus some performance incentives.
I suspect general manager Dayton Moore is close to owner David Glass’ payroll cutoff point, but has some leeway for mid-season emergency additions. Moore probably just doesn’t want to dip into that reserve to add Alex Rios.
Who can blame him?
Rios was mostly unproductive after breaking his hand the first week of the 2015 season. Fortunately for the Kansas City Royals, he rebounded somewhat in the second half to post a .267/.302/.400 triple slash for a 91 OPS+ (an On Base Plus Slugging 9% below a league average hitter).
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Alex Rios also played well against Houston in the ALDS (.286/.412/.429) and Toronto in the ALCS (.368/.368/.526 with 1 home run) before suffering through a tough World Series against the Mets (.133/.133/.133). So, while Rios rallied enough to give the KC Royals a lineup without a real hole after the trade deadline acquisition of Ben Zobrist, putting up the right field position for grabs is a good decision by Dayton Moore.
Even with the Kansas City Royals poised to contend for the next few seasons, they still need to give opportunities for prospects to blossom into major-league players if they want to avoid a crash. While Jarrod Dyson, Paulo Orlando, Brett Eibner, Jose Martinez are not considered high upside guys, Moore still needs to give young players the opportunity to show they can become major league regulars.
Given that the Kansas City Royals finished the first half with the best record in the American League despite poor production from second base and right field, I can’t imagine that a Dyson and Orlando platoon (if none of the prospects like Eibner, Martinez, Reymond Fuentes, Jorge Bonifacio, or Bubba Starling can produce enough to stick in Kansas City) would be so horrible that Moore couldn’t patch the hole with a trade before falling out of contention.