Chicago Cubs: Getting to know Saturday’s hero, Rene Rivera
Let’s take a minute to get to know new Chicago Cubs’ catcher Rene Rivera. What does the veteran bring to the table for the reigning champs?
Newly-minted Chicago Cubs’ backstop Rene Rivera made his major league debut in 2004 with the Seattle Mariners. Making only three plate appearances that year, Rivera received just 50 more in 2005 and did not exceed rookie status until the 2006 season.
After posting a slash line of .152/.184/.253 in 35 games for the Mariners in 2006, Rivera headed to the minors where he stayed until the 2011 season. Rivera reemerged in the big leagues with the Minnesota Twins at the age of 27. In just 45 games for the Twins, Rivera hit .144 with one home run and five RBI.
Receding back down to the minors for the entire 2012 season and the majority of the 2013 campaign, Rivera posted the best offensive season of his career in 2014. Now a member of the San Diego Padres, Rivera slashed .252/.319/.432 in 103 games. In addition to that, Rivera set a career-high with 11 home runs and posted an OPS+ of 116.
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Following the 2014 season, Rivera was a member of the Tampa Bay Rays and the New York Mets in 2015 and 2016, respectively. Over those two seasons, Rivera played in just 175 games, notching 526 plate appearances. In those plate appearances, Rivera slashed .195/.244/.300 with 11 home runs and 52 RBI.
Rivera joins the Cubs
This season, Rivera began the season with the Mets and posted a .230/.278/.391 slash line in 54 games. Despite his struggles, the Cubs claimed Rivera off waivers from the Mets on August 19. The move came about a week after Willson Contreras was placed on the DL with a hamstring injury.
At the time of his acquisition, Rivera was slated to back-up another new Cub, Alex Avila. Avila was acquired prior to the trade deadline in a deal that saw him and reliever Justin Wilson come over from the Detroit Tigers.
In seven games for the Cubs, Rivera is showing some offensive pop. The now 34-year-old catcher is slashing .350/.435/.550 with one home run and five RBI in seven games. Rivera’s lone home run as a Cub came on Saturday. The 387-foot blast would be a memorable one for Rivera as it would become his first career grand slam.
What does Rivera bring to the table?
As it could be understood from looking at his statistics, Rivera has never been an offensive threat. In fact, Rivera hit just 35 home runs in 1,409 major league plate appearances. What Rivera is know for is his defense. Thus far in his career, Rivera has logged over 3,000 innings behind the dish. In that time, Rivera has committed just 27 errors and thrown out 36 percent of runners trying to steal a base. In addition to that, Rivera has saved 16 runs defensively at the catchers’ position in his career.
Overall, Rivera has made a living being a back-up catcher and it looks to remain that way in his time with the Cubs. With three catchers on the active roster (Avila, Rivera and Victor Caratini), it would seem Rivera is just holding down a roster spot until Willson Contreras returns from the DL.
What does Rivera’s future hold?
As stated above, Rivera appears Triple-A bound or a DFA target once Contreras rebounds from his hamstring injury. Yes, Rivera is a solid veteran back-up that can play good defense, but so is Alex Avila, and the Cubs gave up a lot more to get Avila than they did to get Rivera.
Despite Rivera’s shortcomings, he could spend some time in Triple-A in case the Cubs need some more depth at the catcher’s position moving forward. Who knows, with the roster’s expanded, Rivera could stay in the majors, with Caratini being the demotion once Contreras returns.
For now, Rivera’s role as a back-up seems to be safe. That will likely change once Contreras returns and assumes the role of primary catcher.
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Looking at all the teams Rivera as been a part of in his career, one thing is certain. The veteran always seems to find a job somewhere in the league. That is good because he may be looking for one once Contreras returns.