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Jays Options Regarding Juan Rivera

The Jays did get rid of a huge amount of cash when they dealt Vernon Wells to the Angels, but they also inherited what may be a huge $5.25 million headache in Juan Rivera. With Edwin Encarnacion back to a full-time DH role and the Jays placing Jayson Nix at 3B in his place, the Jays have little use for Rivera at this point. Even if they did “have use” for him, they likely wouldn’t get much from him. His stats thus far in 2011?

39 ABs / 4 hits / NO EXTRA BASE HITS / 4 TB / 7 BB / 6 SO / .103 AVG / .239 OBP

Ugly doesn’t even begin to describe the line above, but it’s not the worst of it. The lack of effort Rivera has shown on the field is an even bigger issue. At this point, the Jays might as well be trying to unload another Vernon Wells like contract in trying to get a team to take a chance on him, because he’s not even worth the spot on the bench on this point and is making way too much money.

So, if you’re Alex Anthopoulos and the Jays, what do you do with Juan Rivera?

Option 1: Look for a desparate team and take on some cash in a deal.

The Jays could get lucky and find a team that is so desparate for a veteran OF that they’re willing to take a shot on him turning things around. Even if they do find a team willing to take him on, the Jays would still have to swallow the majority of his contract if they want any return at all. Possibilities?

  • Seattle Mariners: This is the team that took Milton Bradley on, so adding a guy like Rivera – who knows the AL West very well – wouldn’t scare them at all. Their offense is anemic to say the least, so adding any form of pop to their lineup would go a long way to helping them turn a 6-12 start around. After all, who would you rather have in your lineup, Rivera or Ryan Langerhans?
  • New York Mets: At 5-13, the Mets need something, anything, that will bring a change to their team. It’s almost as if every player on their team is just waiting for the dismantling to happen. Well, if the Jays can take on some of their salarial obligations and deal Rivera – along with other piece(s) – to the Mets, they could get “something” in return, the value dependant on the other piece(s).

Option 2: Send Rivera down to AAA Las Vegas, in hopes of a team picking him up off waivers while he’s passing through for the demotion.

This is the “Alex Rios” route of getting rid of his contract. You get no return if someone picks him up, but, to me, that’s the best the Jays can hope for at this point. He should have close to $4-4.5 million remaining on his contract by end April, so a team would have to be willing to take all of that on to get Rivera. But, that’s not all.

If no team decides to take a shot on Rivera, the Jays get the best possible scenario because they can then deal him to any other team who can keep him in the minors once acquired, or the Jays can also keep him as a depth piece in hopes that he finds his swing again.

There’s a chance that Rivera could refuse the assignment and become a FA (I believe), but if he does that, the chances of a team picking him up on a majors deal are extremely unlikely – and he knows it – so he’d likely still wind up in the minors. Unless Rivera believes that he wants to play for a certain team in a certain location because it gives him a better shot at getting back to the majors, he’d likely be “forced” to accept the demotion with the Jays.

Option 3: Wait things out (until June) in hopes that Rivera’s bat gets hot. 

The Jays have some very interesting outfielders getting time in the minors right now, so waiting things out until June in hopes that Rivera finds his swing is a very strong possibility at this point. If they’re going to pay for his salary anyhow, they may as well get “something” out of him, right? And if he does get hot, they can try to work a deal with another club at that point. With injuries and needs popping up during the season, the Jays could get lucky at some point and find a taker for the remainder of his salary and possibly even get a small return.

Option 4: Include him as part of a deal that includes a better player/pitcher.

If Alex Anthopoulos is willing to part with a more attractive player, along with Juan Rivera, in return for a certain player, he could unload the majority of Rivera’s contract. It would likely still require some form of concession by the Jays GM, either in quality of return or how much contract money is exchanged, but it would allow for a deal to get done.

Once Eric Thames and others are able to be called upon with enough time in the minors to ensure 1 more year of control over them for the Jays, all bets are off in my opinion and Juan Rivera could be waived.

If Juan Rivera is a Toronto Blue Jays player in July I will be astonished. Jays fans are already tired of watching his lacksidasical play, he’s already sick of his own performance, and the Jays need more from their bench. They need someone who will provide positive energy, perhaps even veteran leadership, great ABs when called upon, and occasional power surges. In short, the Jays need a Matt Stairs or Marcus Thames like player. Someone who knows his role, embraces it, and provides the team with better chances to turn games around in the late innings of game with high quality pinch hit ABs.

Personally, I feel that the Jays will likely use option 3, possibly option 2, in dealing with the Rivera situation. I was truly hoping for something better from Rivera, but he’s looked absolutely horrible in a Jays uniform. If I’m right and he is gone by the time July comes around, look for the Jays O to really take off and to become highly effective force it should be from then on for the second half of 2011 and beyond.

- MG

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