The two-time All-Star was claimed off waivers by Chicago and learned the news about 30 minutes before the first pitch between the Blue Jays and New York Yankees. The White Sox assume his entire huge contract while Toronto receives no compensation.
“I’d heard the rumors, but yeah, I thought I was going to stay here,” Rios said outside the Blue Jays clubhouse. “Stuff happens, and I just have to move on.”
Blue Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi said the move was not “a financial dump,” but acknowledged that Toronto needs “more financial flexibility.”
Rios signed a seven-year contract with the Blue Jays in April 2008 that guarantees him $69,835,000. He was due $5.9 million this season, $9.7 million in 2010, $12 million each in 2011 and 2012 and $12.5 million apiece in 2013 and 2014.
There is also a $13.5 million team option for 2015 with a $1 million buyout.
“Since we did the contract, so many things have changed in the game economically in the last year, little over a year, and this allows us to get out from under a contract and enables us to do more to address our club going forward,” Ricciardi said.
Rios has struggled most of the season, batting .264 with 14 homers and 62 RBIS in 108 games, although Ricciardi said that wasn’t much of a factor in the decision.
He said that the White Sox had expressed interest in Rios for some time, but the two sides never came close to a trade before the July 31 non-waiver deadline. Even so, the Blue Jays have several gaping holes in the lineup and could use the cash.
“Do we take the financial flexibility in a time when the game is changing, or do we retake the player and try to address some of our needs?” Ricciardi said. “We like the player, but it’s just a situation where the contract for us, it enables us to do different things.”
Chicago trailed the Detroit Tigers by three games in the AL Central entering Monday night’s game at Seattle. Rios is expected to catch up with the White Sox late in the night or early Tuesday morning.
It was the second big move involving a high-priced player in the past two weeks for the White Sox. They acquired former NL Cy Young winner Jake Peavy on July 31 from San Diego for four young pitchers.
Peavy, currently on the disabled list, is set to make $15 million in 2010, $16 million in 2011 and $17 million in 2012. There is a $22 million club option for 2013 with a $4 million buyout.
“Tremendous player,” White Sox DH Jim Thome said when he found out the team acquired Rios.
Rios has spent his entire career with the Blue Jays, breaking in as a 23-year-old rookie in 2004. A decent outfielder, Rios hit .283 with 81 homers and 395 RBIs over the past six seasons, making the All-Star team in 2007 and 2008.
“It was a little emotional to say bye to your friends, to the people you came up with,” Rios said. “But like I said before, you have to move on. It’s a new team and I just have to keep doing what I was doing here, go out and play hard and just try to help the new team win.”