Ken Gurnick reports that the Dodgers and Juan Rivera have agreed on a one-year contract worth 4 million dollars that includes an option year. Jon Paul Morosi adds that the option year is a team option worth 4 million dollars with a $500k buyout and that there are $500k worth of incentives in both years. Dylan Hernandez had the initial report of a deal being finalized.
Despite appearances, Juan Rivera does have value, as he hit .274/.333/.406/.739 in a Dodgers uniform last year. Additionally, he’s a competent fielder, posting a 3.0 runs defensive WAR value in 2011 with a history of above average defensive play. However, his .324 wOBA is mediocre for the position, and he hasn’t posted an OBP over ~.330 since 2006. Plus, his power has fallen in two consecutive seasons, which isn’t the most promising sign for a soon to be 34-year-old. As one might expect, he’s worth -1.5 runs on the basepaths and that only figures to get worse as he ages.
Given enough playing time, he would be hard pressed not to be a break even value for the Dodgers at 4-5 million dollars (~1.0 WAR). The catch is that starting him full time means he takes significant playing/development time away from Jerry Sands, who might be a superior player as it is. On the other hand, if the Dodgers choose not to start him and use him as a bench player or a platoon partner for Andre Ethier and James Loney, then he’s unlikely to accumulate enough value to justify his contract even as a neutral move. If it sounds like a Catch-22, that’s because it is.
In a vacuum, I actually don’t mind having Juan Rivera on the Dodgers. He has value as a bench bat that can competently play three positions and hit a bit, but with the Dodgers situation, there’s only a tiny window for him to succeed, especially given his age.