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Daily Dodger in Review: End of the great Juan Rivera experiment

November 06, 2012|By Steve Dilbeck
  • Juan Rivera hits a two-run homer against the Giants.
Juan Rivera hits a two-run homer against the Giants. (Mark J. Terrill / Associated…)

JUAN RIVERA, 34, outfielder/first baseman

Final 2012 stats: .244 batting average, nine home runs, 47 runs batted in, 30 runs, .286 on-base and .375 slugging percentages in 310 at-bats.

Contract status: Free agent.

The good: His nine homers were actually the fifth-highest total by a Dodger. Played both left field and first base, and though he hardly excelled at either, he approached adequate and gave the Dodgers needed flexibility. Basically quiet, as never a problem in the clubhouse.

The bad: All his numbers were down from last season, and well off his career averages. Somewhat inexplicably, like a lot of Dodgers, he struggled against finesse pitchers (.198). Hit .215 at Dodger Stadium. Tore a hamstring in early May, and never seemed a factor again.

What’s next: Nothing with the Dodgers. They exercised a $500,000 buyout on the $4 million he would have had coming next season. It’s possible he could re-sign at a reduced rate, but it’s also possible people confuse me with Brad Pitt.

The take: It’s not like he was completely awful, but he knocked at the door. Particularly considering what the Dodgers were apparently expecting from him. He actually began the season as their primary left fielder, and Manager Don Mattingly – in a moment where he apparently lost mind control to a crazed Giants fan – said he hoped to get 90 RBIs from Rivera.

This optimism was apparently based on his having a good 35-game stretch from Aug. 10 to Sept. 12 of 2011, when he had 31 RBIs. Alas, the real Rivera – the one designated for assignment by the Blue Jays in 2011 – emerged over the course of the season. At least the real 34-year-old version.

Any real need for a backup first baseman was pretty much eliminated when the Dodgers traded for Adrian Gonzalez, who figures to play most every day. And now with Carl Crawford to start in left, and Jerry Hairston Jr. now mostly looking at life as an outfielder, the need for Rivera – particularly that blind, crossed-fingers, I hope, I hope, he can be a power hitter again bit – is kaput.

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