Should the Yankees target Juan Rivera?


At FanGraphs yesterday, Dave Cameron mentioned Juan Rivera as a free agent bargain. The 30-year-old will hit free agency for the first time this off-season, though his stock is far from its highest. His 2007 and 2008 campaigns left much to be desired, the former being dramatically shortened after breaking his leg during winter ball, the latter due to the Angels having a logjam in the outfield and only getting him 280 trips to the plate. In those 280 appearances, though, he hit a paltry .246/.282/.438. Not much of a contract year performance there.

Presumably, the Angels will let Rivera walk. They already have Torii Hunter, Gary Matthews, and Vlad Guerrero under contract for 2009, they have Reggie Willits to fill in as a 4th outfielder, and there’s a chance they could bring back Garret Anderson, whose 2009 option they declined yesterday. With those options, plus Rivera’s ineffectiveness, the outfielder could find himself in a new home in 2009. Why not bring him home to the Bronx?

Don’t get me wrong, though. I’m not advocating we sign Rivera to replace Bobby Abreu, per se. Given his issues, Rivera could be a cheap signing this winter. A few teams may be in for his services, but it’s not like he’s going to score a 3-year, $15 million deal anywhere. Likely, he’ll get a year and maybe an option, and a salary, I dunno, below $2 million, maybe with some incentives. That’s just a guess, though. You never know what’s going to happen during the Hot Stove.

Ideally, the Yanks get Rivera as their fourth outfielder. This leaves them with Damon in left, Melky/Gardner in center, Xavier in right. Rivera is mostly a right fielder, so when he plays Xavier can move to left and Damon can shift to center or play DH. Or Xavier sits. There are plenty of ways the Yanks can work this. It means that both Melky and Gardner start in center field — one for Scranton-Wilkes Barre, though.

We do know that Rivera had skills, and could bring it at the plate. Those skills have certainly eluded him over the past few years, and there’s no guarantee that they’ll come back. Say they do, though. Say he takes to an off-season workout and comes into camp ready to hit like he did in 2006. You then have a good problem on your hands. You can play him in right, Xavier in left, and then have three center fielders to choose from. You can dish Damon to a team whose center fielder bites the dust early. You can put him in center and hope that your offensively superior outfield can hang defensively. The chances of this are slim, but it’s still a possibility. That’s why it’s called a flier.

Outfield certainly isn’t the top priority of the off-season, but the Yankees could pull a small move like this in order to give them some flexibility and open up their options. Rivera is a guy who has the potential to start, but you can live with as a bench guy. Even if his best years are behind him, he still has some power — he hit 12 homers in those 280 plate appearances. It’s doubtful any team pursues him as a starter, so teams should be on pretty much even ground. Since the Yankees have the financial advantage, they could probably pull him in if they really wanted. I think they should. Do you?

Categories : Hot Stove League


  1. steve (different one) says:


    if he is indeed looking at the type of deal you mention, and i don’t know if he is or not, it would be a very smart pickup.

    he’d be a great bench player.

    • JD says:

      I said that the Yanks should sign him before anyone else did! I posted it on the thread where there was talking about getting Cameron.

  2. Mike A. says:

    Agreed. You can’t count on Matsui to play the field, and it’s inevitable that Damon will run into a wall and miss some time. When that happens, they’d be left with a Melky-Gardner-Nady outfield. Yikes.

    Rivera would be a nice and cheap insurance policy, plus he gives them a legit RHB off the bench. At worst, he’s Morgan Ensberg v2.0 and they cut him in May.

  3. this is the david says:

    I m with it…

    Todays Bargin FA (David Ross) might be a good choice for us as well

  4. Steve S says:

    Sounds good, but he may given a clear shot to start for some other teams – see the team in Queens. I would think he would take a spot where he is either guaranteed a starting spot or a better chance to get 500 ABs. But if not, definitely bring him back.

  5. aaron empty says:

    yeah take a flyer, but only if its cheep, otherwise dont bother. i doubt hell be any good this year but you never know i guess…i guess anything is better then melky

  6. Nick says:

    Agreed. Low Risk High Reward move.

    One minor quibble with the post: both Gardner and Melky won’t be starting center fielders. The starter in Scranton will be AJax.

    • dan says:

      Good point, although it doesn’t really matter if Melky plays CF or LF in Scranton

    • rbizzler says:

      Has it been announced that Ajax is going to start the year in AAA? I was under the (admittedly uninformed) assumption that he would start the year in Trenton. Mike, anyone?

  7. Mike P says:

    This is the area where Boston has killed the Yankees in recent years. The Yanks need to bring in bench depth and rest their older starters more. Sure, everybody loved guys like Miguel Cairo and Bubba Crosby, but the reality is the Yanks need to have guys who can step in and not dramatically hurt the lineup. The roster/lineup has been far too set in stone in recent seasons, and the lack of flexibility hurts. Bring in a few guys who can play 40-50 games a year (or more if necessary) and rest the likes of Jeter, Matsui, Damon, Posada, and whoever else is getting up there in age more often.

  8. jsbrendog says:

    yessir, i like it

  9. CB says:

    Rivera would be a very good risk. His broken leg was a very severe injury (it was his femur that broke I believe). But over time broken bones will heal. As Cameron pointed out Rivera was much better the last three months he played than when he initially came back.

    If Rivera is close to back to his baseline they could play Nady in LF and Damon in CF. Against teams with speed that would expose Damon in CF they could rest Damon and play Gardner/ Melky.

    Rivera would also be good moving forward. Damon and Matsui will be gone after 2009. Nady will be a free agent. They need corner outfielders badly – none in the system. If Rivera has a good season in 2009 it would be easier for them to bring him back on a new deal.

    But when you focus on big names (as the yankees will this off season) it’s very easy for smaller moves like a Rivera to fall through.

  10. Andy says:

    I like it a lot better than giving up the farm for the overrated Holliday or the cancer Manny. Gives AJax a year to develope, and Melky/Gardner a window to prove themselves. At worst, it upgrades the bench, and in particular with right handed hitting, with power. Cheap, low risk option for the outfield which lets Cash focus on the rotation and 1B. How great would it be if the Yanks moves were CC, Tex, and Rivera, while bringing back Moose and/or Pettitte on short term deals. Best case scenario in my opinion.

  11. kgSturnz0r17 says:

    very underrated player, get him; 1+1 yr deal 2mm+incentives?

  12. Mike Pop says:

    No as nomaas said Adam Dunn should be one of our targets

    • dan l says:

      I think Dunn would be amazing at Yankee Stadium. He never played on a winning team until being traded to the Dbacks. I can’t imagine what it must be like to continue to play for teams that are completely out of the race by mid season. Dunn hit for average in the minors so there is hope there.

      I would love to have his production 40, 100, 100, 100 which is hr, r, bb, rbi.

  13. dan l says:

    Only go after Rivera if the cost of Ryan Spilborghs is to high. Does anyone know for sure whether Melky has an option left?

    • Isn’t Spilborghs under the Rockies control for like two more years? He’s only played 4 seasons in the bigs, and he’s not in line for any massive arbitration contracts that would force them to move him…

      Spilborghs would cost prospects. Rivera costs nothing but money.

      • dan l says:

        I chatted with the Rockies AAA GM a few times (friend of a friend) and he didn’t think the Rockies are all that keen on keeping Spilborghs. Even if they trade Holliday they still have Seth Smith and Dexter Fowler ready now. Smith is a better bet to replace Holliday over Spilborghs with Dexter Fowler going to Cf. Taveras makes a better 4th outfielder over Spilborghs because of his speed imo.

        Spilborghs can play all 3 outfield position so can Rivera do that? The Yankees have a few relievers to trade such as Veras so maybe a deal can be worked around him plus.

        • Okay then, If they’ll really deal him without demanding a ransom, I’ll bite.

          Wait, the Rockies have an AAA GM? Really? Why?

          • dan l says:

            Team official I don’t remember his specific title but he is in charge so is that AAA team president then? Is there really that huge a difference in gm/team president?

            • I’m just saying, the Rockies have a GM. AAA teams may have team presidents, but they have negligible power. They’re there to make deals with hot dog vendors and plan Fitted Hat Night giveaways. Only the big league club gets any real say in player moves.

              Jeremy Ruby is listed as the Executive Vice President/COO of the SWB Yankees, but he’s not about to tell Brian Cashman “Hey, I don’t like this Matt Carson kid, let’s trade him.” Cashman’s telling him to fuck off and go buy a new mascot costume.

              So, perhaps the Rockies really have soured on Spilborghs and really would trade him for a non-elite prospect, but if you’re getting that from a source from the Colorado Springs SkySox and not from Dan O’Dowd’s office, take it with a grain of salt. They’re in the loop, but it’s far from the inner sanctum.

              • dan l says:

                Dude who would know more You, Me or the SkySox team president? The guy loves baseball and was a lot of fun to talk too. I asked about Spilborghs and he said that with both Seth Smith and Dexter Fowler coming up Spilborghs could be gotten.

  14. Steve K says:

    I have been saying for awhile now that Rivera should be a target. He can play left too. Trade Damon.

    • Joseph P. says:

      I’ve been advocating a trade of Damon for a while, but I’ve been thinking lately: who plays left field? You can’t bank on Rivera being good enough to start. Unless they sign Adam Dunn, which I highly, highly doubt, it looks like we’re going to need Johnny.

    • Why trade Damon instead of Matsui? You’re not going to get anything of great significance for either one, but Damon is less of an injury risk and a better offensive performer.

      If we’re going to dump one for roster flexibility purposes, it’s gotta be Hideki. But I agree with Joe; dumping either just because we signed Juan Rivera isn’t smart. Rivera is a backup and not a starter.

      • radnom says:

        Because you could possibly get something of significance for Damon. For various definitions of “significance”. Matsui on the other hand has absolutely no trade value coming off that second knee surgery, not too mention if he can get healthy he would do a lot to improve this offense from where it was last year. They definitely missed Posada the most but I think that has overshadowed the loss of Matsui which wasn’t insignificant.

      • EdB says:

        Matsui generates a lot of revenue for the team overseas. I dont’ see him playing anywhere other than NY. While he may just be a good player here over there its the greatest player in their history playing for the greatest franchise in baseball. It wouldbe like an American becoming Captain of Manchester United. (Sorry I don’t watch Soccer and couldn’t make a better referance).

        • I think this argument is overblown. We’re the Yankees, we’re already a global brand. Is it nice to have a few bucks kicked in by Yomiuri for that snazzy billboard in left? Sure, but we’re still going to be printing money in 2009 regardless.

          If the Japanese revenue stream was such a concern, wouldn’t we have to re-up Matsui when his contract expires next November? Wouldn’t we have to keep signing big-name Japanese stars into perpetuity?

          • EdB says:

            Not neccesarily. On merchandising alone Yankees 55 probably generates significant revenue. Throw in the TV rights, ad sponsorships , etc Matsui probably almost pays for himself.

            • So, again, then, your argument is that we shouldn’t get rid of Matsui in 2009 because of all the merchandising and advertising revenue he brings in.

              Does that mean we have to resign him for 3 more years when his contract expires, when he’ll be a 36 year old DH hitting like .260/.320/.390 with fiberglass knees? Just because some Japanese TV stations have some simulcasting partnerships?

              I agree with you that Matsui is a financial boon due to his overseas celebrity status. I disagree with you that we should dissuade ourselves from making smart baseball decisions, such as being willing to jettison a broken and past-his-prime 35 year old DH in the final year of his contract, simply because of a financial boon due to an overseas celebrity status.

              • EdB says:

                I’m not saying keep him any longer than his current contract. I have a feeling he’ll go back to Japan at that point anyway. My point is that the money saved for his level of production (assuming he plays) can be better applied to other FAs this year. There are plenty of good ones.

  15. Mike A. says:

    Just wait though, if they do sign Rivera, we’ll be bombarded with “why did they let him go in the first place!!1!11!” articles from the tabloiders.

  16. Bruno says:

    I think Matsui should be coming off the bench and we should find a YOUNG reliable catcher with Posada at DH, Tex 1B. Of couse, we’ll find out if a catcher is needed after Dec 1st.

  17. Mark says:

    One word on Rivera: No. Have too many outfeilders, and if you’re looking for a bench player – fill from within. On a related note — anyone else watching BJ Upton in the playoffs and thinking Austin Jackson a couple of years from now? Very similar athleticism and minor league numbers.

    • Bruno says:

      That would be IDEAL! We can only hope…

    • Have too many outfeilders [sic]

      No, we don’t. We have one – Xavier Nady. Supplementing him, we have Johnny Damon, who probably needs to be DH’ed aggressively to stave off injury/fatigue and who can’t play CF anymore; and Brett Gardner, who may not hit. Melky will be in Scranton until he proves he isn’t a trainwreck anymore, Matsui is nothing more than a DH, and Abreu is a goner. That’s three outfielders… possibly two and a half.

      and if you’re looking for a bench player – fill from within.

      With what? Cody Ransom? Justin Christian? Shelly Duncan? Matt Carson? Really? Do you really want our 4th and 5th outfielders to have a collective OPS+ of 37?

      • Mark says:

        Rivera can’t play CF, so that leaves you with the following corner outfielders under contract: Damon, Nady, Matsui, and Rivera (if signed). Matsui will be almost full time DH, which leaves you with Damon in left, and Nady in right. I’d rather have some speed and defense (Christain), power (Duncan), or later in the year someone like Ajax (if he’s tearing up triple A) than an older role player who can’t do much of anything taking up time/space as utility player.

        All things being equal — if we’re going to have the problem of too many corner outfeilders — resign Abreu — so we have corner outfeilders who can all hit if healthy (Abreu, Matsui, Damon, and Nady are all superior to Rivera at the plate).

    • steve (different one) says:

      One word on Rivera: No. Have too many outfeilders, and if you’re looking for a bench player – fill from within.


      this whole thing is based on the premise that he would make less than $2M.

      is it worth having a shitty player like Christian on your bench to save $1M?

      sure, if Rivera is going to take $3-4M, i see your point. for $1.5M? improve the team wherever you can.

  18. E-ROC says:

    What about Garret Anderson? Could be a good option if he doesn’t re-up with the Angels.

  19. steve (different one) says:

    the Yankees would probably pick up a few wins just by signing Anderson and sending him to AAA, simply to not have to face him 10 times a year.

    the dude is an average player who turns into Barry Bonds when he sees Yankee pitching.

    • The Honorable Congressman Mondesi says:

      “the dude is an average player…”

      Actually, his OPS has been below average 3 of the last 4 years, and in the only “above average” OPS season of those 4 years he managed to play in only 108 games. And he’ll be 37 next season. He’s cooked.

      • steve (different one) says:

        i don’t disagree.

        but he has still hammered the Yankees the last few years.

        .432/.432/.591 in 2008
        .500/.519/.885 in 2007

        also, i was joking around.

  20. Bo says:

    They can do a lot worse for a 4th OF than Rivera.

    A good bench should be a priority this off season because it wouldn’t kill us to have one.

  21. nick blasioli says:

    forget rivera…we dont need another outfielder…we need to add power and defense….tex and pitching….we have to replace abreu..and giambi……

    • Bo says:

      Forget having a good and versatile bench??

      Haven’t we learned anything these past few years?

    • steve (different one) says:

      what does this have to do with picking up Rivera for the bench?

      it’s a completely independent decision from signing Teixeira or Sabathia.

  22. Bill says:

    Nady could play play 1B, and rivera could play RF. Also, Mirana could get some time at 1B, and Nady could play RF when Mirand is at 1B.

  23. Carlos says:

    I guess you forget that he was a Yankee once before. He was unceremoniously canned for stealing from a teamates locker room; who happened to be Derek Jater’s. You might forget but I doubt the Yankees have…

  24. dan says:

    Who’s this Melky/Gardner fellow? Sounds like in your scenario Riveria would be the 5th outfielder. Get rid of Damon. Then you got a real outfield of Riveria LF, Gardner CF, & Nady RF, with Melky as the 4th outfielder.

    I look at like this. Damon was already replaced by Melky last year. And Gardner should replace Melky this year. And look, Melky’s going to get better. He’s a 23 year old switch hitter, if he wants it, he has no choice. Damon isn’t going to get better. We just saw his high water mark this year and should expect more break downs, injuries, and the like. Damon has one year left on his contract and really isn’t the same leadoff hitter he used to be. Gardner is the real deal and the base swiping weapon we’ve lacked for about 20-25 years now. A team like the Cubs could match up for a Damon, maybe?

    But if not, there’s no real need to get Riveria IMO.

  25. Carl says:

    What about Rocco Baldelli? I know he has injury problems but a 4th OF/DH role or a situational guy against LHP would limit his playing time and chances of getting hurt. He’s 3 yrs younger than Rivera and could play CF if needed. I rather give him a shot.

  26. College_All_American says:

    Dont forget you could move Nady to first if Rivira cna get the job done in right, Ideally we would like to sign Tex, but as great as he is we dont need 2 people under contract for 10 years. I say we sign Abreu back, or Rivera let the outfielders battle it out for starting positions, nothing brings out the best like a little competition, and lets sit Nady right at first base, you could either sign a defensive first baseman for late in the games, or you could use cody ramson for this! let me know what your thoughts are!

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