Will the Dodgers pick up Juan Rivera’s option this winter? That is the question the Dodgers will need to answer. The Dodgers acquired Rivera on July 12, 2011 as a waiver trade from the Toronto Blue Jays. The 34 year old Venezuelan outfielder has played for four other teams (Yankees, Expos, Angels, Blue Jays) during his 12 year career. Rivera has a career line of .274/.323/.443 with 132 home runs.
Rivera overall had a poor year with the Dodgers in 2012. Rivera struggled for most of the year, while missing significant time with a hamstring injury. Rivera has two seasons of 20+ home runs, and hit 25 homers in 2009 with the Angels, which was his career high.
It seemed as though the Dodgers had seemingly plucked Rivera from the garbage heap when they first acquired him last season. Rivera played in 62 games and posted a line of .274/.333/.406 with 5 home runs, and 46 RBI in 219 at-bats. Rivera has never been a great defensive player, but was adequate in the outfield. Rivera plays the corner outfield spots, and also plays first base. In 2011, Rivera played 45 games in the outfield for the Dodgers, and 17 games at first base. Rivera posted a total zone runs above average of -0, and a +1 at first base.
After a solid second half of 2011 with the Dodgers, Rivera returned in 2012, but did not have a good season. Last winter, the Dodgers signed Rivera to a one year four million dollar contract, with a four million dollar team option for 2013. The Dodgers also have a 500,000 dollar buyout.
I was fine with Rivera returning in 2012. After all he was somewhat versatile in that he could play the corner outfield positions, and first base. He also had a pretty productive year with the Dodgers in 2011. I figured he would be a decent late inning option off the bench at the very least. Not to mention he generally hits lefties pretty well. (.285 avg .820 OPS, 55 HR)
The Dodgers had slated him as their starting left fielder. The Dodgers actually tried a bunch of different players in left field throughout the season, but Rivera got the majority of the playing time early on. Rivera ended up getting more time at first base than in left. With the struggles of the punch-less James Loney obvious to the world, Rivera became the primary first baseman up until the trade for Adrian Gonzalez. Rivera played in 54 games at first base in 2012, and 47 games in the outfield. Rivera was below average defensively at best, posting a -3 total zone runs above average at all three positions.
Looking at Rivera’s splits, we can see he fares much better against lefties then he does righties. This season Rivera posted a line of .260/.312/.433 versus lefties, and a line of .232/.269/.335 against right handers. He hit better on the road then at home. (.264 on the road, versus .215 at home). Rivera got off to a decent start. He batted .254 in the month of April. He had a solid June, batting .278. August was his worst month. He hit only .161 (9 for 56) in August. He did finish strong though. He batted .304 (7 for 23) in September. As a pinch-hitter he was barely average. Off the bench, Rivera was 6 for 23 (.261).
Overall, Rivera finished with a line of .244/.286/.375 (76 for 312). He posted a .661 OPS, with nine home runs, and 47 RBI. Now of coarse a .661 OPS is not good, but if you look at his strikeouts and walks, he rarely did either. He drew only 18 walks, but whiffed just 35 times. That means a lot of pop ups, and grounders.
Rivera had a poor year overall, but still managed to knock one out of the park every once in a while. The question is, will he be back next year? My thoughts are, there is about a 40/60 chance of the Dodgers picking up his option year. The Dodgers already have a set outfield for next year. With Carl Crawford as the starting left fielder, and other players ahead of Rivera on the depth chart, the Dodgers may feel they no longer need him. The Dodgers have Crawford in left, and Matt Kemp in center, and Andre Ethier in right. They also have Jerry Hairston Jr. under contract for next year, and Tony Gwynn Jr. as well. Also joining the fray next year will be Alex Castellanos, Scott Van Slyke, and Elian Herrera. The Dodgers don’t need any more outfielders. Crawford should be ready by spring training, but if he isn’t the Dodgers have better options. They may need him as a backup to first base in case something happens to Gonzalez. Since Jerry Sands, and James Loney are gone, the only other first baseman the Dodgers have on the 40 man roster is Scott Van Slyke. Sure they could stick Punto or Herrera there in a pinch if they had to, but is that isn’t an option for more than a few games.
Most Dodger fans would just say that Rivera sucks. I mean yeah, he kind of does, but I see him for what he is, a semi-versatile veteran with a history of injuries in decline, with occasional power. Rivera still has some pop in his bat. That can be valuable off the bench. It’s not like he’s Juan Uribe bad or anything. If Rivera does come back, it would obviously be as a bench guy. The Dodgers are probably not going to bring him back, but if they do, I think I would be ok with that, of course only as a bench player. Do you think Rivera will return in 2013? Yes, or No? Let us know below in the comments.