At a time when most teams have very little financial flexibility, it could be within the realm of possibility that the Blue Jays will consider a trade of Rios, who still has six years remaining on a seven-year, $69.35 million contract he agreed to in April 2008, or simply waive him to the team that claimed him.
MLB sources indicate the White Sox are most likely the team awarded the claim on Rios, but the Blue Jays have not confirmed it. In any case, it may well be that Rios is on his way out of Toronto, because the Blue Jays may embrace the opportunity to shed his contract -- much in the same way that the Blue Jays unexpectedly allowed the San Diego Padres to take reliever Randy Myers in a waiver claim more than a decade ago.
The Blue Jays, it appears, have three options, and must make a decision by Tuesday, because the waiver period will roll through the weekend:
• They could work out a trade with the team that claimed Rios.
• They could pull him back from waivers, and keep him for themselves the rest of this season.
• They could simply allow the team that claimed him to take him, at no cost.
Undoubtedly, the decision to place a waiver claim on Rios will stun rival executives, at a time when the prices on free-agent outfielders have plummeted. The most lucrative deals for corner outfielders in the most recent offseason -- other than Manny Ramirez -- were for Raul Ibanez, for three years and $31.5 million, and Milton Bradley, for three years and $30 million.
"That's an incredible opportunity for the Blue Jays to get out from underneath that contract," said one team official.
Part of the reason the Blue Jays had considered trading Roy Halladay is the lack of payroll flexibility into the future, created in part by their obligation to Rios.
The 28-year-old Rios is batting .261 with 12 homers and 58 RBIs this season. He has never had an OPS higher than .865, and currently has an OPS of .728.
Rios is making $5.9 million this season, and he is set to earn salaries of $9.7 million in 2010, $12 million in 2011, $12 million in 2012, $12.5 million in 2013 and $12.5 million in 2014.
The Jays hold a club option on Rios of $13.5 million for 2015, with a $1 million buyout.
The New York Mets also have been looking for help that won't cost them significant prospects, but leading up to the trade deadline, they hadn't expressed much willingness to take on a major salary.
Rios' contract would cost any team that acquired him about $2 million for the rest of this year.
Buster Olney is a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine.