While we were all a bit shocked at the news that Mike Napoli was leaving the Angels as part of the Vernon Wells deal, it was even more surprising to me that Juan Rivera was also included. This was particularly puzzling after it was revealed that the Angels weren't getting any money or additional players from the Blue Jays. Though he wasn't a superstar or the most popular player on the roster, Juan Rivera had his share of fans and made some contributions in his six seasons as an Angel. As a fan of his since 2006 and an owner of a Juan Rivera jersey since mid-2009, I figured I'd take a quick look back at our newly traded left fielder.
Juan Rivera arrived in Anaheim from Montreal prior to the 2005 season along with Maicer Izturis as part of the deal that sent the malcontent known as Jose Guillen away from Mike Scioscia's wrath. That deal ended up working out pretty well for the Angels as both Rivera and Izturis ended up sticking as regular contributors in the lineup. Rivera showed himself to be a powerful hitter with a good throwing arm, finally having a breakout year in 2006 where he hit 23 HR, drove in 85 runs and hit .310 for the season. It looked like he would be filling in regularly behind Vladimir Guerrero and making up for the power that was lacking from an aging Tim Salmon and Garret Anderson. Unfortunately, catastrophe struck when Rivera broke his shin playing winter ball in Venezuela. After a long, tough road to recovery, Rivera made his way back to the Angels roster, and for me personally, this perseverance combined with his 2006 production is what made me a Juan Rivera fan. After struggling to regain his form and battling for playing time through 2008, Rivera signed a three-year deal to take over left field full-time from Garret Anderson. He rewarded us with another career year in 2009 before struggling in 2010 along with the rest of the team. It's uncertain what his 2011 would have brought us (or will bring Toronto), but I have enough faith based on his past performance that he'll rebound as long as he stays healthy.
Juan Rivera's numbers over his six years as an Angel are pretty respectable. In 595 games, he put up a slash line of 277/325/464 with an OPS/OPS+ of 789/107. He launched 92 home runs and drove in 337. On top of this, he made some pretty good plays over the years with his arm to nail runners on the basepaths. In 2009, he ranked 3rd in assists among left fielders and currently ranks 12th in that category among active players. Overall, these were satisfactory numbers for somebody who never took up much payroll and was expected to compliment bigger stars, like Vlad and Torii Hunter. Another interesting note now that he's been traded: as far as I'm aware, Rivera is the only active player - and probably the last player of all-time - to have played for two MLB franchises in Canada. That's a pretty unique thing for him to have on his resume.
Some of Juan Rivera's bigger and more memorable moments as a Halo:
2009 ALDS v. Boston:
Rivera passes Chone Figgins for stolen bases in the series. Game 3. No offense to Figgy, but you have to admit it's funny.
Juan drives in 2 off Papelbon in Game 3. This was his biggest hit with the Angels as far as I'm concerned. It started the Red Sox meltdown that would carry over in such epic and satisfying fashion during the next inning. Without it, the Angels probably wouldn't have advanced to the ALCS that day.
Juan Rivera robs Branyan of a HR. He almost repeated the same play on the next hitter as well. Torii approves.
Juan hits his 100th career HR back to the US from the Rogers Center in Toronto, Canada. Perhaps a preview of what Jays fans can hope for.
So there you have it, Angel fans, a brief look back at what Juan Rivera did for us during his time here. There are several more that I didn't link (including a grand slam from '06 that I couldn't find), but this should be a fitting enough tribute to our former left fielder. I wanted to make sure he got his due since much of our lamentations have been about Mike Napoli - who will be missed just as much.
Farewell and thanks, Number Juan! Good luck in Toronto!