Juan Rivera Turned One Good Month Into $4.5m


Not to break up all the fun over the search for a new Dodger owner, but that’s unlikely to be resolved for months and there’s still baseball business at hand. Remember the other day when word came out that Juan Rivera was likely to sign a $4m contract for 2012 with a club option for 2013, and we were all a bit less than thrilled with that?

Uh, yeah:  

The Los Angeles Dodgers have agreed to a one-year, $4.5 million contract with outfielder Juan Rivera, major-league sources told FOXSports.com.

The deal, which is pending a physical exam, will pay Rivera a $4 million base salary during the 2012 season. It includes a $4 million club option for 2013 (with a $500,000 buyout) and $500,000 in performance bonuses each year, one source said.

Oh, good. As though just giving him $4m wasn’t enough of an overpay, now it’s $4.5m guaranteed (including the option buyout) and the potential for $5m with performance incentives. Let’s not forget that Rivera made $5.25m with Toronto last year and was so bad that they flat out DFA’d him in July; I wish I knew of some sort of database that would allow me to query for “most money made in the season following a DFA”, because this has to be up there.

While I’ve said that I’m okay with Rivera on this club as a OF/1B platoon bat against lefties, no one pays that much for someone to be a backup. That means that Rivera is almost certainly going to be your starting left fielder, and that pushes Jerry Sands to AAA unless there’s an unlikely Andre Ethier trade in the works. That’s a guy who didn’t even make Keith Law’s top 50 free agents list and who had a total 2011 OPS of .701, worse than Jamey Carroll and Casey Blake‘s marks last year. While it’s true that he was far better with the Dodgers than he was in Toronto, that’s hardly a high barrier to clear, and it appears that once again, the Dodgers have been sucked in by a favorable first impression that the new aquisition was unable to maintain. (Yes, I’m looking at you, Rod Barajas.)

Rivera’s first 31 games with Dodgers
115 PA  .327/.365/.481 .846 OPS  .364 BABIP

Rivera’s second 31 games with Dodgers
131 PA .226/.305/.339 .664 OPS .240 BABIP

His true talent level is probably somewhere in between, but unfortunately that’s not what you want from a starting corner outfielder or someone you’re paying nearly $5m to. Did anyone really think that you absolutely had to lock up Rivera during the exclusive negotiating period before a line of other teams drove dump trucks full of cash to his house? There’s this narrative going around that Rivera was some sort of “savior” or “RBI machine”, and while his contributions were welcomed, the facts just don’t fit that story.

As Eric Stephen rightly points out, Rivera’s 2011 profiles very similarly to Marcus Thames‘ 2010 – after which Thames was signed for only $1m – and we can see how well that turned out. Perhaps if Roch Kubatko’s completely unsubstantiated and never going to happen report that the Orioles would have interest in Ned Colletti is true, we can make them take Rivera (…and Matt Guerrier, and Juan Uribe) as compensation?

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  1. [...] week since I’ve posted a Season in Review piece, thanks to all the hoopla over ownership and the signing of Juan Rivera. Before we completely turn the page to 2012, let’s continue our look back at [...]

  2. [...] aren’t taking their time this offseason, are they? After getting things started quickly by bringing back Juan Rivera, they’ve now snapped up Mark Ellis, have agreed in principle to an extension for [...]

  3. [...] that has already dwindled to seven, as Rivera has returned and Carroll & Barajas have signed elsewhere. Only Barajas and Kuroda are ranked free agents, in [...]

  4. [...] doesn’t take into account the terrifying prospect of a full season of Rivera in left field, since after being lousy for five of six months last season, he’s not exactly high on my optimism list as he turns 34. The damage could be limited by [...]

  5. [...] loss of the team’s starting left fielder, but then again, he’s been awful this year and I was never in favor of giving $4.5m to a guy who was DFA’d last year in the first [...]

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