LOS ANGELES -- The Dodgers officially announced on Thursday the re-signing of free-agent outfielder Juan Rivera, who will receive a one-year deal plus a 2013 option for a guaranteed $4.5 million.
Rivera was acquired at the All-Star break from the Toronto Blue Jays virtually for free and became the run producer the Dodgers have been looking for since Manny Ramirez went wrong. The Dodgers went 41-28 after Rivera arrived.
Rivera drove in 46 runs in 62 games, although he hit .274 with only five home runs in 219 at-bats and a .740 OPS. The nine-year veteran had a career-high 25 home runs for the Angels in 2009 before being dealt in the Vernon Wells trade. He just finished up a three-year, $12.75 million contract.
Rivera, 33, was a favorite of manager Don Mattingly from their days together with the Yankees. He was able to play both corner outfield positions and first base. More importantly, he hit .289 with an .805 OPS against left-handed pitching. Andre Ethier (.563 OPS) and James Loney (.561 OPS) were among the worst in the league against left-handers.
It's unclear, in light of this week's announcement that owner Frank McCourt is putting the club up for sale, whether the signing of Rivera precludes the pursuit this winter of a bigger bat like free-agent Prince Fielder. At the least it appears to be a "bird-in-the-hand" approach that assures a veteran bat in the middle of the lineup to protect Matt Kemp.
However, even if general manager Ned Colletti is working on the assumption that his 2012 payroll will be similar to the $110 million total of 2011, there figures to be approximately $25 million freed up by departing free agents (Casey Blake and Jon Garland among others) and salaries dealt away, like the $13 million of Rafael Furcal.
Another $12 million might be available if Hiroki Kuroda does not return. He reportedly is delaying his decision to see if the club is able to replenish the roster and give him a chance of winning in one last season as a Dodger.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.