Here's an interesting question: With the Los Angeles Dodgers seemingly in need of help at first base and third base when it comes to depth, why didn't they keep Edwin Rios for the 2023 season as a form of insurance?
Back in November, the Dodgers non-tendered the former top prospect "due to a roster crunch," per Andrew Friedman. Yes, Rios struggled with injuries and inconsistent play throughout his Dodgers career, but the 28-year-old was projected to earn just $1.4 million in arbitration.
Looking at the Dodgers roster right now, they don't have a true third baseman or backup first baseman. Max Muncy will be starting at third and Miguel Vargas will be starting at second. Most of Muncy's MLB experience has come at first base, while Vargas came up through the minor leagues as a third baseman (but with questions about his defensive capabilities).
So, if the Dodgers were to rearrange the infield in any capacity, it'd be addition by subtraction. Even Gavin Lux at shortstop is still a "what if." Muncy moving to second base with the shift ban is problematic. Vargas playing the hot corner despite one inning of MLB experience there is a bit of a risk. Miguel Rojas as the team's utility man and Freddie Freeman at first base feel like the only steadfast options ... and even Rojas is coming off wrist surgery.
Rios' injury history (he missed most of last year with a hamstring issue, which followed shoulder surgery the season prior) was undoubtedly concerning, but the Dodgers brought in Rojas (injury concern) and David Peralta (injury concern) this offseason. And they never really gave Rios a fair shake when he was healthy, despite his success in small sample sizes.
Edwin Rios is disappointed with Dodgers after joining the Cubs
Just last week, Rios finally found a home with the Chicago Cubs, which has become the spot for outcast Dodgers. Joc Pederson went there in 2021. Zach McKinstry joined in 2022. And then Rios and Cody Bellinger arrived in 2023. The new Rangers!
Rios spoke to the media at spring training not too long after his arrival, and clearly expressed disappointment about his time in Los Angeles.
"I was like, ‘When this is all over I’m going to go up,’ and that didn’t happen,' Ríos said of his rehab assignment. 'Once I got the news that I was getting optioned, it was kind of a punch in the gut. So I got a little frustrated, I would say. Didn’t start hitting as well. I think it was more of a mental thing, kind of like just expecting to go back up and stuff like that.' "- Edwin Rios via the LA Times
In hindsight, trading for Joey Gallo and then not elevating Rios was a mistake. Even rolling with Hanser Alberto for as long as they did, only to reject his team option in the offseason, made little sense. The Dodgers were rolling down the stretch, but were suffering from the struggles of Bellinger, Chris Taylor and even Will Smith, who fell off big time in September. They really didn't want to see what they had in Rios, who, across 112 career games dating back to 2019, has 20 home runs, 43 RBI, a .791 OPS and 109 OPS+ in inconsistent playing time?
After the Dodgers cut bait with Bellinger, Gallo, Alberto, Justin Turner and Trea Turner, there were plenty of opportunities for Rios to compete for something heading into 2023. And that had also been the case in 2022 when he was ready to return from his injury down the stretch.
His frustration is understandable. There's no telling if he'll succeed with the Cubs, but if he manages to latch on even with a minor role, it could end up being a regrettable decision for LA, seeing as the replacements they brought in after their house-cleaning don't exactly scream "upgrade."