Are You Sure That's WWJD With Alex Rios?

Again, the "J" stands for Jeffrey

With every passing moment, my confidence in Alex Rios waivers that much more. What do you do with this guy?

On one hand, he is a rare .280+/20/20-type hitter, capable of the kind of balanced production that Mad Money's Jim Cramer would tout if he played fantasy baseball. On the other hand, with the exception of two, arguably three, months of his White Sox career, Alex Rios has been nothing short of atrocious. Some, including myself, lauded Alex Rios' 2010 campaign overall, attributing his second half to the universe's sick way of evening out his first half (though I do not honestly believe in the gambler's fallacy).

Having pegged Rios as a borderline OF1 in 12-team mixed leagues this year, I wonder if it is time to re-evaluate Alex Rios in the context of his 10+ month stint with the Pale Hose. First, let's examine Rios' splits by month, indexing his wOBA value against the league, weighting factors such as park (i.e., wRC+) (click to enlarge):

As you can see, Alex Rios has not been a very productive White Sox. With the exception of April and May of 2010, Rios' wRC+ has been below 100. Even if we credit Rios' June 2010 as "average," his other 7 months (plus what he's done thus far in June of this year) has been objectively poor.

Some, including myself, might be tempted to point to Rios' BABIP. At .276, it is approximately 50 points below Rios' xBABIP as a White Sox. If you adjust Rios' batting line to reflect his xBABIP, you find his expected batting average rises above the .290 threshold, with an OPS in the high .700's.

But isn't it possible that Rios' true BABIP line lie somewhere in between, perhaps closer to .270 than .325? If you take out Rios' first half from 2010 from the equation, the Rios' speed has been merely "league average" since the outset of 2009. Rios' then career-low 5.3 speed score in 2009 looks fast by the standards of his below-average 4.4 mark in 2011. Rios' declining speed is apparent by his three caught stealing and only four successful stolen bases.

Rios is 30 years old, and he's not getting younger. We like to think of hitters' peak and primes occur between their age 27 and 31 seasons, but the truth of the matter is that the talent tends to peak around age 25, followed by a plateau and decline. There really is nothing "magical" about age 27, and just because 40 is the new thirty does not make 30 the new 25. Aging curve research that I have read indicates that players in their thirties tend to lose half a WAR or so per season across their present talent line. That is not to say that Rios is Father Time, but that at age 30, his prime is likely over, the upside is quite limited, and the chances of replicating previous seasons dies with every passing year.

Given his rare 20/20 upside, promising home park, xBABIP, and brand name, it is hard to sell Rios, let alone at a substantial discount. What you get in return will hardly match the price, or contain the upside, you probably paid for with Alex Rios this year. Still, economics tells us the smart investor ignores sunk costs, and it's hardly likely Rios' reaches that level either. Last month I advised not selling yourself too short on Rios, but I am reaching the point where I am regretting that advice. If you offered me 70 cents on the dollar, I might take it.

Give his brand name, it may be possible to convince another owner that you are "selling low" and entice them to buy Alex Rios at a "fair price." If you could get a Colby Rasmus in return, I'd take it. The truth of the matter is, be it because of age or injury, .265/.310/.420 might be all that Rios has got left in the tank at the moment. Rios could touch the 15/15 mark this season, but 12/12 is probably more realistic. Shoot for upside, aim for prospects. I flipped Rios for Anthony Rizzo and Aaron Crow in a league on Tuesday.

So get out there, try and make a trade. Or readjust your expectations. Just don't keep Rios and expect a major bounce back.