I wrote a fluff piece on Rene Rivera earlier in the season after it seemed like he was coming around. However, that was just a flash in the pan -- a very tiny flash. Like a spark in a wasteland of darkness. Rivera has just surpassed his previous total for games played in a season when he appeared in his 104th game this season. He accumulated 103 last year. Although he wasn't expected to exactly duplicate the numbers he put up last year, he hasn't come remotely close to matching them.
Currently, Rivera has slashed .179/.212/.278 with 5 homers to go along with a 26.7 K% and a 3.2 BB%, good for 34 wRC+. He's been receiving less and less playing time, although that could have something to do with the additions of J.P. Arencibia and Luke Maile. It seems as though Rivera only plays whenever Chris Archer starts or when he's needed as a defensive replacement. There's been a feeling that he's been on his way out since Kevin Cash made a rare statement to the media of his displeasure with a player. That came after Rivera had a chance to tie a crucial game, only to be retired rather easily with a foul pop out.
". . . non-competitive basically. We know for us to win games, we've got the make the most of those opportunities. . . If your job is to move the ball, move the ball." - Kevin Cash
That may be the only instance this season in which Cash has publicly spoken negatively of a player and since that time, Rivera's time behind the dish has decreased significantly. Rivera has played in 13 games and is just 1 for his last 22 at-bats. Now Rivera has been getting slightly better with the bat as the season has progressed, hitting .238 in the month of August, but he has yet to record a hit in September.
Last year, the Rays had Jose Molina who put up one of the worst offensive seasons in major league history so it was fair to expect that Rivera would do at least better than that, which he has, but not by much.
Here's how Rivera ranks among 40 major league catchers (min. 200 PA)
J.P. Arencibia will not keep up his current production and has already showed signs that his performance will dip. However, during the first week of his Rays tenure, he provided Rays fans with a rare sight, a catcher who could slug a ball over 450 feet. That sudden offensive outburst from the backstop makes you realize just how little the Rays catching has brought to the table the past few seasons, with the exception of Curt Casali who was doing splendidly with the bat.
The Rays have Rivera under contract until the conclusion of the 2017 season, so he's controlled for the next two seasons. If Rivera is still with the team in February, he'll be eligible for his second round of arbitration. He won't merit much of raise due to his dreadful first year here, but he'll still rake in around $2 million next season, which isn't all that much but still a lot more than the league minimum Arencibia and Casali would receive.
We knew we wouldn't be receiving an offensive juggernaut with Rivera, but hoped that he wouldn't be a total black hole in the line-up. Unfortunately, he has been. However, he was brought to the team, more for his defensive prowess and the way he can work with pitchers, which he has done exceptionally, especially with Chris Archer who pitches to him almost exclusively
Now how has Rivera done on defense?
So far this season, there have been 112 catchers who received a pitch in the majors leagues. Last season, there were 113, and Rene Rivera ranked 4th among qualified ones in extra calls per game gained from framing with 1.75. This year, it has been a different story.
So far this season, Rivera ranks 40th in the majors and has managed just 0.48 extra calls per game. Meanwhile, when it comes to blocking pitches, he has posted negative numbers per Baseball Prospectus.
As for controlling the running game, Rivera had an abysmal start, then was nearly perfect
During his first 26 games, of the 14 runners who tried to steal, 12 were successful. Following that, Rivera nabbed 13 of the next 23, and has since thrown out 7 of 22. So it's been up-and-down in the department, but overall he is at 37% on the season.
So, he has been decent behind the plate, but almost entirely unproductive with the bat. Is he worth keeping around next year?