There were lots of reasons to hate that signing - from the length of the contract to the crazy cash, to the fact that Matthews Jr. pretty much sucks at baseball. But I also thought that this ill-advised deal spelled the doom of Juan Rivera in Angel Red. Sure, he wasn't going to play much in 2007 after breaking his leg in winter ball between his breakout 2006 season and spring training 2007, but when he DID recover, he had nowhere to play.
Rivera, if you recall, crushed the ball in the 2nd half of 2006 to the tune of .335/.381/.538. That is Teixeira territory folks. That was flat out sick. He cemented his place in the Halos plans that season. Unfortunately, he broke his leg and needed 9 months to recover. he returned in 2007 to post very modest numbers in limited action.
After the signing of Torii Hunter in the 2007 offseason, there was REALLY nowhere to put Johnny Rivers. During the first half of 2008 Matthews Jr. was given every opportunity to play himself out of a career-long funk, to no avail. So, finally, mercifully, in late June, Mike Scioscia started playing Juan Rivera instead of Matthews and his $50 million contract. The first game was here - a 1-0 win over the Dodgers where Juan collected 2 of the teams 6 hits. And he has continued to hit. And hit.
Rivera has played in 20 of the 25 team games in July and started 15 of the last 17. In July, Rivera has hit .316 with an OBP of .379 and a SLG of .596. He his 5 HR's and knocked in 13 runs while drawing 7 walks. He isn't a walk drawing machine, but he will never be confused with Garret Anderson or Howie Kendrick either. He can work the count and lay off pitches when needed.
Rivera posted an OPS of .975 in July. Is he as good defensively as Matthews Jr. in LF/RF? No way, but Matthews Jr. isn't .300 points of OPS better with the glove. Not even close.
So, this brings me to my initial point: should the Halos resign Rivera to play the OF in 2009 and beyond. My answer is an emphatic "Yes". I said - back in December of 2007 - that the Halos should re-up Rivera then to a low-risk high-reward contract of 2 or 3 years at $5 to $7 million per year. That seemed high to a lot of folks at the time, but José Guillen signed a 3 year $36 million deal with Kansas City last offseason and Guillen is a pretty good comp for Rivera. Rivera was NEVER given a good shot to start in the majors before 2006 and he crushed that year. Then, broke his leg and lost a year to surgery and recovery.
Anyway, this post is far too long for the simplicity of the answer. I would sign Juan Rivera right now for 3 years at $8 to $10 million per year. He could anchor LF or RF (depending on the result w/ Vlad) and give the team .360/.500 production. For a team with as little pop as the Halos this needs to happen to solidify the Vlad protection past 2008. Remember, Teixeira will probably fly the coop this offseason.