Yes, the Angels do still have the one known as Johnny Rivers, Juancho, Number Juan, etc on their roster for the 2011 season. He had a pretty bad year at the plate in 2010 (which is where he usually performs well) and wasn't exactly stellar in the outfield either. After spending a good portion of the end of 2010 on the bench or filling in at 1st Base, many were wondering what Juan's role would be for the Angels moving forward. This is a question that still needs answering.
There has been a lot to like about Juan Rivera over most of his Angels career from my point of view, particularly after the season he put up in 2006. He has power, typically hits for a good-to-high average, drives in runs and has a cannon for a throwing arm. His only drawback is that he's slow. Myself and many others thought that we had finally found somebody to protect Vladimir Guerrero. He didn't cost a lot of money and came in a package deal with Maicer Izturis - not bad for Jose Guillen. Then, Juan broke his shin in half during a collision in the Venezuelan Winter League and spent most of 2007 learning to walk again with metal in his leg. In 2008, he put up low numbers in 89 games (280 PA's), but when you consider what he was coming back from and the fact that the Angels had to juggle him, GA, GMJ, Torii Hunter, Vladimir Guerrero and some Reggie Willits in the OF, you can understand why he struggled.
The Angels let the aging Garret Anderson go after 2008 and took a leap of faith on Juan Rivera with a 3-year, $12.75 million contract to play LF. He put up a career year in 2009, hitting .287 with 25 HR and 88 RBI. His OPS and OPS+ were .810 and 111 respectively. It seemed the Angels had made a wise, cost-effective investment. Then, he fell off a cliff in nearly every offensive category in 2010.
So what can the Angels do with the man who has put up a .789 OPS, 92 HR's and driven in 337 runs as part of their club? A man who appears to have lost his mojo in 2010 along with the rest of the team, and a man who is owed $5.25 million in 2011?
Option 1 - DFA: Some have suggested this, but I don't think it's a very good idea. We are already paying around $11 million to GMJ to do nothing for us. Is it really a good idea to kick another $5.25 million out the door and get nothing in return? I don't think so, especially when the guy has some solid years under his belt not that long ago and is barely in his 30's. I understand the urge here, but it gets us nothing.
Option 2 - Winter Trade: This has been a widely suggested option, but again, I'm not sure how realistic it is. Other teams are going to be just as unsure about Rivera's ability to bounce back as the Angels appear to be and aren't likely to offer anything more than a low-level prospect in return. They sure aren't going to pick up any of his contract. I don't really think it's a good idea to pay $5.25 million for a prospect that isn't likely to pan out. There is the possibility he could be swapped for another bad contract, but again, is that something that would really benefit the Angels? I don't see Juan being part of a worthwhile trade unless he's packaged as icing on the cake with somebody else.
Option 3 - Bench: This seems to be the most likely and wisest option. It wasn't what he was signed to do, but his value has always been in his bat. Other than Napoli, there aren't any other proven major league power hitters we might be able to call up in the late innings, and there is a chance Napoli will already be in the lineup at catcher anyway. There is also the possibility that Torii Hunter or another OF goes down with an injury, at which point, Abreu or someone else will need to fill in. Juan provides another option here and is at least capable of providing the offense required of a corner OF.
He also showed last year that he is at least capable of handling 1st base, which kind of makes me wonder if he could handle 3rd in a pinch. He only made 1 error in 109 innings at the other corner while saving 3 runs above averge and projected out to save 34 runs there over the course of a full season (Rtot/yr). Juan isn't fast or terribly mobile, but most corner IF aren't. Juan's certainly got the arm strength to make the throw across the diamond should the need arise. If the Blue Jays can put up with considerably worse defensive production from Jose Bautista at the corners, then I figure Juan might be worth a look there if we have no other options. This is just a thought experiment on my part, so don't think I'm trying to say that we should make Juan our 3rd baseman for 2011. I think he's mainly going to be used as a pinch hitter and OF.
If Rivera's bat comes back next year, then we might be able to get something of value in return from a mid-season trade, or we may end up needing it because of an injury to someone else.
Conclusion: One way or the other, it is highly likely that the Angels will be paying most or all of Juan Rivera's $5.25 million salary next year and that he will be with the team at Spring Training. He can't be non-tendered; DFA-ing or trading him for scrap is a waste of money; and at 31, it's not inconcievable that he could bounce back to acceptable levels and fill a role or be worth something via trade. We should wait and see if that happens unless a better, more cost-effective opportunity comes up first.