Thursday, October 6, 2016

Ex-Twins watch: Rene Rivera

It's been five years since Rene Rivera caught for the Twins, and he had such an undistinguished time of it in 2011 that many have probably forgotten it. He played in 45 games, had 114 plate appearances, and hit .144.

He re-upped with the Twins on a minor league deal in 2012, spent the entire season in the minors, was not called up for September, vented in a tweet that he quickly deleted, and wound up signing with San Diego. He got a little time in 2013 and quite a bit of time in 2014 -- he was the Padres' No. 1 catcher and actually hit a bit.

Then he was packaged in a three-way trade that sent him to Tampa Bay -- a trade known at the time as the Wil Myers trade and that may ultimately be known as the Trea Turner trade. He didn't hit for the Rays, and they released him this spring, and he signed with the Mets, where he wound up in a three-way timeshare of the catching job.

Rivera started Wednesday's wild card game for the Mets, and one of the running pieces of commentary -- both on the ESPN broadcast and on my Twitter feed -- was the quality (or lack of it) in his pitch framing. The general consensus was that Rivera was costing the Mets pitchers strikes, particularly at the bottom of the strike zone.

Rivera is supposed to be a good defensive catcher, but that's a label that gets attached to veterans who don't hit much. Rivera is 33 now, he doesn't hit much, he must be a defensive specialist.

I asked myself about halfway through the game Wednesday: Would the Twins have been better off with Rivera as their backup catcher than Juan Centeno? (Centeno, by the way, made his major league debut with the Mets.)

Rivera slashed .222/.291/.341 this year for the Mets in 207 plate appearances; he caught 481.2 innings in which he was charged with three passed balls and was involved in 19 wild pitches, and he threw out 30 percent of base stealers (league average 27 percent).

Centeno slashed .261/.312/.392 in 192 plate appearances. He caught 438.2 innings with five passed balls, 33 wild pitches (!) and threw out 14 percent of base stealers.

Centeno is the better hitter. Rivera is the better receiver. I think that's pretty obvious. Rivera got a little more playing time. Neither should be a regular catcher.

I'd prefer the Rivera type of backup catcher, a guy who doesn't actively damage the defense when he's playing. As I've observed repeatedly, Paul Molitor appears to value hitters over gloves, and Centeno is just another example of that.

In truth, the question of the No. 2 catcher is secondary to the Twins this winter. The presumption is that Kurt Suzuki won't be back, and the No. 1 job has no obvious heir.

No comments:

Post a Comment