NEW YORK -- Alex Rios showed up at Yankee Stadium and saw his name on the Blue Jays' starting lineup Monday night. He left the ballpark a few hours later, on his way to join the White Sox and a pennant race.
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."
The White Sox already have a full outfield with veterans Jermaine Dye, Scott Podsednik and Carlos Quentin. Everyone with Chicago outside of general manager Kenny Williams was stunned at yet another bold move, following the acquisition of San Diego Padres ace Jake Peavy on July 31.
"Yes, I was," manager Ozzie Guillen said before Chicago's game at Seattle, when asked if he was surprised by the move. The White Sox began Monday three games behind Detroit in the AL Central.
"It was great news," Guillen said. "A lot of people are [asking], 'How are we going to play all those guys?' I've already had a meeting with some of those guys. I'm going to sit down with [Rios] and talk about the situation. Everybody is going to have playing time.
"The lineup? That's going to be my headache -- a good one," he said.
Chicago's players got the news about Rios as they dressed for batting practice.
"Tremendous player," said DH Jim Thome, another one of the starters Guillen said would rest some to get Rios in the lineup.
Podsednik said he hadn't thought about Rios' arrival enough yet to comment about him.
Williams expects Rios to join the team Tuesday afternoon in Seattle, but because of the long flight he may not play until Wednesday's series finale against the Mariners.
The 28-year-old 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.
The White Sox assume a minimum of $61.6 million by adding Rios, which includes the roughly $1.9 million remaining on his contract this season.
Peavy, currently on the DL, 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.
"Yeah, we're out on a limb a little bit with the last two acquisitions, but what we've seen in recent games at home is our fans are starting to wrap their arms around this team," Williams said. "People are getting excited about the possibility. I think they can see this team being a dangerous team when we get to the playoffs and match up against anyone."
Williams had been trying to trade for Rios, but he said the Blue Jays denied his request for money to help pay his hefty contract.
"We had targeted him as the guy who would not only help us here in our quest for our division but in future seasons as well," Williams said.
Chicago could wipe up to five free agents with contracts approaching $40 million off its books in 2010 -- including Dye, Thome and struggling starter Jose Contreras.
"We're OK with cash, because of the way we've structured our payroll over the years and with the young core that has developed right in front of ours," Williams said.
Blue Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi said the move was not "a financial dump," but acknowledged that Toronto needs "more financial flexibility."
"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," he 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.
"We like the player," Ricciardi said, "but it's just a situation where the contract for us, it enables us to do different things."
Rios has spent his entire career with Toronto, breaking in as a 23-year-old rookie in 2004. A decent defensive 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."
Williams' day wasn't all roses. He was given a ticket for jaywalking by the Seattle Police Department.
Williams was cited Monday outside Safeco Field for illegally crossing a street away from a crosswalk. The GM was on his cell phone after exiting a cab and was on his way into the stadium hours before his team's game against the Mariners when a traffic-control officer nabbed him and wrote a $56 ticket.
He had just completed the Rios deal.
Williams tried to tell the officer people in Chicago cross streets anywhere. He said the officer told him, not in Seattle.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.