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The Alex Rios signing is not working out

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Its too early to say definitively, but ten weeks in, Rios hasn't been helping.

Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Despite our reputation for being critical spirits, we are willing to give credit where credit is due. Last week we were willing to admit we were wrong to be down on the Royals signing Kendrys Morales as the replacement for Billy Butler. Of course, we are certainly willing to give criticism where criticism is due as well. While it is still early, it is looking like the decision to sign Alex Rios as the answer in right field appears to be a big bust so far.

Alex got off to a terrific start in the first week of the season, homering on Opening Day, and hitting .321/.345/.464 over the first week. Then he was plunked by a pitch in Minnesota, breaking his pinky finger and shelving him for six weeks. Since returning, he has hit just 4-for-38, with a line of .105/.150/.132. Overall, his fWAR is -0.4 in 18 games, compared to 0.5 for Paulo Orlando and 0.4 for Jarrod Dyson.

His poor offense is probably attributable to the pinky injury continuing to affect him, so there is still hope that perhaps once healed (bone density issues aside), Rios will begin to hit again. The projection models were mixed on Rios to begin the year, but even they did not anticipate him hitting just .197/.232/.273 by this point in the season. Rios will likely bounce back closer to his numbers last year, although the more he plays without fully recovering, the more his pinky injury may continue to linger.

However one area where the pinky injury should not be a factor is on defense. It is not enough that Rios has been a zero at the plate so far (much of the lineup has been since May began), but he has become a liability in the field as well. His limited range cost the Royals a triple and a run on Friday night, and he misplayed a single into a double on Saturday. It is not just his ability that is frustrating to watch, it is seemingly lackadaisical play that adds fuel to the fire.

Back in our first podcast, when we discussed the off-season moves, I said of Alex Rios:

"My prediction is by mid-summer, this will be a guy that both the stat guys and the mainstream fans can both unite on. I don't think he's going to be a fan favorite at all....He's going to be a guy that doesn't look good with your eyes and doesn't look good with the stat sheet."

Rios has been accused of not hustling before, getting benched not once, but twice in Chicago for failing to hustle. Maybe these gaffes were a lack of hustle, or maybe he's just not comfortable out there yet with his new team. In any case, despite his seeming tremendous athletic ability, Rios has been a poor defender for the last few seasons,
one of the worst in the league since 2011. The Royals were hopeful Rios' work with Rusty Kuntz would yield improved results, but apparently Kuntz is not a miracle worker.


What makes Rios' negative value so far even more frustrating is that there is probably a decent alternative available on the team right now. A platoon of Jarrod Dyson and Paulo Orlando would not be anyone's idea of a great bat - Jarrod Dyson hits .266/.326/.357 against right-handers, Paulo Orlando hits .250/.302/.375 against left-handers - but it would be an improvement over what Rios has produced, and their tremendous value in defense and baserunning (combined they have +6 Defensive Runs Saved in 460 innings, just slightly below Alex Gordon's +8 in 473 innings) would actually make the duo a valuable platoon.


But it would be foolish to dump Alex Rios after just 18 injury-filled games, that's not the point of this article. The book on Rios should definitely not be closed this year. After all, Nori Aoki got off to a dreadful start last year, and hit .313/.380/.410 over his last 70 games (and oh, by the way, over the last calendar year Nori is hitting .318/.384/.403 in 539 plate appearances, Rios is hitting .220/.248/.302 in 310 plate appearances).


If Rios is hurt, he needs to go on the disabled list and get healthy. If he is healthy, he needs to start hitting. If he doesn't, the Royals should cut their ties before too long and go with an option that can either hit or play defense, because Rios right now is doing neither.