Chicago Cubs: Rene Rivera is a player the team should bring back
While the Chicago Cubs are deep in the Ohtani news, they also need to find a backup catcher. Rene Rivera may fit the bill for what they’re looking for–and at a price they’ll like.
The Chicago Cubs may be busy looking at filling in the starting rotation and bullpen depth as a top priority, but there are other small things to be addressed. One would be the veteran backup catcher, Rene Rivera.
They are not hard to find, and there are no sweepstakes for one, so Theo could go in several directions. Last year the Cubs claimed Rivera off waivers in August as a depth piece, and he ended up doing pretty well. As they re-bolster the team for 2018, Rivera might be a guy the Cubs want to bring back.
What we saw last year
More from Cubbies Crib
- Cubs should keep close eye on non-tender candidate Cody Bellinger
- Cubs starting pitching has been thriving on the North Side
- Make no mistake: the Cubs are very much about power hitters
- Cubs are giving pitcher Javier Assad a deserved shot
- Cubs: It’s time to start thinking about potential September call-ups
Rivera, 34, came in expecting to be another depth piece to the catching core. Willson Contreras went down in August, and the catching was primarily between Rivera and Alex Avila for about a month. Rivera played in 20 total games as a member of the Chicago Cubs and was a pleasant surprise.
While not expected to be a force with the bat, he slashed .341/.408/.591 with two home runs and a 0.3 bWAR. One of those home runs was his first career grand slam against Atlanta. For a guy who is a career .220/.271/.349 hitter, it was a very impressive display from the veteran.
While he did not make the postseason roster with Contreras and Avila in front of him, his contributions in August and September made him valuable. He seemed to like working with the Cubs pitching staff and just being part of the team.
Rivera has even helped and spent time with Cubs teammates in the offseason as he has posted on his Twitter account.
Why bring him back?
Having a veteran catcher on the squad is important, whether a starter or a backup. Rivera brings solid defense with plenty of experience that has gotten acquainted with key pitchers on the team. Plus, he would not cost much. Cubs could probably sign him to a one-year deal worth around $1.8 million or so.
Overall there is not really any risk in bringing Rivera back. He has his value for the type of player he is and if things somehow do not work out then he can be let go without wasting much money.
Some may wonder if veteran Alex Avila would be a possible guy to bring back. If he were to accept being Contreras’ back up, then that would be another option. Avila came up with some big hits last year and was also a good defensive presence behind the plate.
There are a number of other veteran catchers on the market that could be of interest. Some will probably get decent money like Jonathan Lucroy, but there are some cheap backup options. A.J. Ellis. He played in 51 games last season and has plenty of regular and postseason experience. He likely would not cost more than $2.5 million for a ballpark number.
Next: How will the Cubs differentiate themselves?
It is kind of hard to see Theo and Joe just wanting to rely just on Caratini to backup, who has only had 75 2/3 innings in the majors under his belt. It would probably be in the Cubs’ best interest to have a veteran back up behind the two young catchers.