Adding further intrigue to the Wil Myers deal talks is the rumored inclusion of San Diego Padres catcher Rene Rivera. In return, the Rays may give up current starting catcher Ryan Hanigan. This new angle of the trade was first reported by Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports and could help the Rays get even more for their former top prospect.
Rivera, 30, is coming off a breakout season in a Padres uniform, hitting to a .252/.319/.432 line (117 OPS+) with 18 doubles, 11 homers, and 44 RBI. Combine that with strong defense and some of the best pitch-framing in baseball, and Rivera was an extremely valuable player last season. Of course, when a 30 year old has a huge season out of nowhere, we have to ask whether he can sustain it.
Rivera’s plate discipline was relatively poor in 2014 as he struck out 76 times against just 24 walks. Against right-handed pitching, Rivera was actually a below-average hitter even at his best, managing a .237/.302/.381 line (96 sOPS+) with 57 strikeouts versus 16 walks. His overall poor plate discipline and his issues with right-handed pitching can’t be ignored.
However, similar to Hanigan, Rene Rivera was excellent against left-handed pitching, putting up a .280/.351/.530 line (147 sOPS+) and a 19-11 K-BB ratio. If he can hit lefties well while being passable against righties, Rivera’s defense is enough for him to be a good starting catcher. Rivera also lacks Hanigan’s injury history as he has played in 95 games between the minors and majors the last three years while Hanigan has done that only once since 2010.
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Overall, Rene Rivera should be a relatively similar player to Hanigan, only with slightly worse catch-and-throw skills, marginally better pitch-framing, a bat with more upside, and a better track record of health. Best of all, Rivera is arbitration-eligible for just the first time in 2015 and he’s projected to make just $1.3 million. Hanigan, meanwhile, is guaranteed $3.5 million in 2015 and $3.7 million in 2016 plus an $800,000 buyout for 2017. Considering that Rivera is a similar player to Hanigan and maybe even a better one, the difference in salary looks especially favorable here.
Ryan Hanigan is a solid player, but Rene Rivera is a similar one with more upside who will also make less money. If the Rays can manage to trade Hanigan for Rivera and also get prospects in exchange for Wil Myers, the trade could be an even bigger win for them. We’ll have to see if the Rays can get the Padres to agree to it.