The Nationals announced they’ve signed veteran catcher René Rivera to a major league contract. Fellow backstop Jackson Reetz was optioned to Triple-A Rochester. Additionally, Washington reinstated infielder Jordy Mercer from the injured list. Space for Rivera on the 40-man roster was opened when Starlin Castro was placed on administrative leave this afternoon.
Washington will be Rivera’s second team of the 2021 campaign. The 37-year-old backstop was selected to the Indians roster in early May and spent a little less than two months in Cleveland before being designated for assignment. The Indians released him last week.
Rivera tallied 63 trips to the plate with Cleveland, hitting at a respectable .236/.300/.400 level with a pair of home runs. He struck out at an alarming 38.4% rate, though, and Cleveland elected to move forward with their expected battery of Roberto Pérez and Austin Hedges once those two players returned from stints on the injured list.
Of course, the Nats aren’t signing Rivera for his bat. He’s hit just .221/.273/.355 (71 wRC+) across 1614 plate appearances at the major league level. Rivera’s appeal is in his defensive abilities. He’s a 13-year major league veteran who’s well regarded for his work with pitching staffs. Rivera has typically rated as an above-average pitch framer over the course of his career, and he’s cut down attempted basestealers at a fantastic 36.3% clip at the major league level.
That quality glove and veteran aptitude is obviously of appeal to a Nationals team that had been relying on the younger duo of Reetz and Tres Barrera behind the plate. Both members of their desired battery — Alex Avila and Yan Gomes — landed on the 10-day IL earlier this month. Avila is dealing with bilateral calf strains, while Gomes has been held back by an oblique strain.