Rivera Returns

Earlier today our focus centered around an Angels stalwart on his way out of town, making it only fitting that tonight’s topic involves an Angels outfielder returning to the team. Juan Rivera, the 30-yr old corner outfielder who has missed most of the last two seasons, will be an Angel for the next few years after signing a 3-yr/$12.75 mil deal today. The Angels bought out Garrett Anderson earlier this off-season and have been linked to Manny Ramirez as well, yet seemingly opted to go the safe route with Rivera.

Juan played in just 89 games last season, hitting .246/.282/.438, with 12 home runs. All told, his .306 wOBA in about half of a season made him worth -5.3 runs offensively. The year before, Rivera only appeared in 14 games, and hit .279/.295/.442. In both of these seasons, his O-Swing% looked very atypical of his previous performance. In 2006, Rivera had a career year, putting together a .310/.362/.525 line with 23 home runs, a .373 wOBA, and +17.5 offensive runs.

Defensively, he has not necessarily hurt teams, but he will not light the world on fire with his glove, either. Since corner outfield positions carry the same adjustment, a combination of his UZR totals in leftfield and rightfield peg Rivera as somewhere between a -3 and -5 run fielder. With aging, he looks like a -5 fielder moving forward. Offensively, Marcel projects Juan to hit .272/.323/.450, a .332 wOBA which happens to be the definition of league average. Should this come to fruition, Rivera would be worth 0 runs offensively and cost his team 5 runs defensively. Prorating the adjustments for 130 games and 430 PA docks him 6 runs for playing a corner outfield position and simultaneously adds 12 runs to account for his value above replacement level.

Under this scenario, Rivera would be +1 runs above replacement next year, or +0.1 WAR. At $5 mil/win, his fair market value would be $500,000. Unfortunately, his projections may be a bit skewed as they include two injury-plagued seasons. It is more than likely that the Angels see Rivera as capable of returning to his 2006 form in one way or another. If he can produce a .345 wOBA in 130 games and 500 PA, Rivera would be worth +6 runs on offense and -5 on defense prior to the adjustments. This results in +9 runs, or +0.9 WAR. At fair market value, that is a 1-yr deal worth $4.5 mil. Factoring in a 10% discount rate for signing a longer deal, a 3-yr deal would be valued at $12.15 mil.

Rivera actually signed for $12.75 mil, not too far off-base. Overall, a good deal for the Angels, as long as Rivera can stay healthy. An average annual value of $4.25 mil is well below the asking price of players like Bobby Abreu and Pat Burrell, whose defensive shortcomings almost completely counteract their offensive contributions. Rivera is not a defensive wizard, but if he can combine slightly above average offense with slightly below average defense, this will result in a fine deal for the Angels.

Eric is an accountant and statistical analyst from Philadelphia. He also covers the Phillies at Phillies Nation and can be found here on Twitter.

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13 years ago

I looked at his value earlier — http://fromthedugout.freedomblogging.com/2008/12/19/is-juan-rivera-worth-12-million/8336/ — and ultimately couldn’t find a reason to assume a return to 2006 levels. He wasn’t injured in 2008, he just wasn’t playing much. When he did get regular play in the second half, his power came back but he still had a .276 OBP.

We’re basically talking about a guy who has been league average every year but one, his age 27 season, and who has good for about 350 AB every year except one. Marcel projects … a guy who will be league average, for about 350 AB. And yet, my gut tells me that there should be a good reason to expect more than a $1,000,000 player.

So I guess my question is — what do you see in Rivera that you don’t see in, say, Jody Gerut?