Juan Luis Rivera 33
Bats: Right Throws: Right 6’2″ 230 lbs.
Born July 3, 1978 in Guarenas, Miranda, Venezuela
Juan Rivera garnered a 1-year $4.5 million contract this offseason including a $4 million team option in 2013 or a $500,000 buyout. We can argue that this contract amount could have been pivotal in having the funds available to resign Hiroki Kuroda. Another negative aspect about this deal is that Jerry Sands probably won’t get the chance to play much since Rivera will be our starting left fielder. The Dodgers are hungry for offense, so signing Rivera was neccessary. Let’s take a closer look at where Rivera has been, and how he ended up with the Dodgers.
Juan and his older brother Osmaldo grew up in Venezuela where they learned to play baseball. Juan was scouted at the age of 16, and in 1995 his whole family moved to the United States.
Rivera was signed as an amateur free agent in 1996 by the New York Yankees. On September 4, 2001 he made his MLB debut against his future club, the Toronto Blue Jays. He only had 4 at-bats that first season, but was called back up in June the following season. Baseball America named him the #1 prospect for the Yankees after he hit .265 with 1 homerun in 2002.
During the offseason of 2003 Rivera,Nick Johnson, and Randy Choate were all traded to the then Montreal Expos for Javier Vazquez. In November of 2004 Rivera was traded again to the Angels along with Maicer Izturis in exchange for Jose Guillen. He played in 106 games with the Angels in 2005 in the outfield and as a designated hitter. He hit 15 homeruns, 59 RBIs, and had a .271 average. The next season he played almost every day as the Angels starting left fielder or the DH when Garret Anderson, the future waste of Dodger roster space, played in left field. Juan had a good year and finished with a solid .310 average with 23 homeruns and 85 RBIs. Rivera missed most of the 2007 season after suffering a broken leg while playing winter ball in his home country of Venezuela. In 2008 the Angels resigned him to a 3-year deal worth $12.75 million. He hit 25 homeruns in 2009 and finished with a .287 average, but in 2010 he only hit .243 with a decrease in homeruns with 15. Juan was then traded a third time to the Toronto Blue Jays along with catcher Mike Napoli for Vernon Wells. In the first half of 2011, Juan Rivera was struggling. The Blue Jays designated him for assignment in July after 70 games. He had a poor .243 average with only 6 homeruns.
On July 12, 2011, Rivera was traded to the Dodgers for a player to be named later or cash considerations. Remember at this time the Dodgers were desperate for offense, and they needed someone to replace the useless Marcus Thames in left field. On July 15, 2011, in his first at bat as a Dodger, he hit a home run on the first pitch he saw off Joe Saunders of the Arizona Diamondbacks. We remember watching this game, and it was a nice first impression. He went on to play in 62 games for the Dodgers, hitting .274 with 5 home runs and 46 RBI during that span. Rivera added a bit of much-needed power to the ravenous lineup along with protecting and batting behind Matt Kemp, yet his defense in the outfield was mediocre. Rivera also was .289/.349 against lefties, and that will come in handy since Ethier and Loney both struggle against left-handed pitching. Rivera also plays first base, so he can sub for Loney as well. With Tony Gwynn Jr. most likely returning, his defensive strength can be the perfect balance to Rivera’s bat.
In 11 seasons, Rivera has a career batting average of .277 with 123 homeruns in 949 games. He has played in 10 postseason series including one World Series while on the Yankees in 2003.
Left field was a revolving door for the Dodgers last year. With a healthy Ethier in right, Kemp in center, and Rivera in left we have a good chance of having a very productive outfield. Sure, the $4.5 million sounds like too much for someone like Juan Rivera, but if he can be productive offensively next season it will be worth it. And let’s never mention Marcus Thames again.
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