The Padres are signing first baseman Alfonso Rivas to a minor league deal, tweets Jeff Sanders of the San Diego Union-Tribune. The La Jolla native will get a non-roster invitation to MLB Spring Training with his hometown club.
Rivas, 26, hit free agency last week after being released by the Cubs. That ended a three-year tenure in the organization that began when Rivas was acquired from the A’s for Tony Kemp. He didn’t play in 2020 thanks to the canceled minor league season but spent the past two seasons at the upper levels. Rivas hit .284/.405/.411 in 58 games with Triple-A Iowa in 2021, earning his first big league call in the process. He made a strong impression, posting a .318/.388/.409 mark across 18 contests before suffering a season-ending injury to his right middle finger.
The left-handed hitter returned in 2022 and split the season between Chicago and Iowa. He again hit well against minor league arms, posting a .298/.368/.415 line over 26 games. His production at the MLB level was more middling. Over 287 plate appearances, Rivas put up a .235/.322/.307 mark. He connected on only three home runs and 10 extra-base hits overall.
To his credit, Rivas drew walks in a quality 10.1% of his trips to the dish. He paired that with an ugly 30.3% strikeout rate though. Combined with his lack of power, his overall offensive production checked in 17 percentage points below league average by measure of wRC+. That’s not the typical output expected from a player who’s limited to first base or the corner outfield. Rivas was credited by prospect evaluators as a potential plus gloveman at first base, and Defensive Runs Saved pegged him as six runs better than average over 674 1/3 innings at the position last year.
Even with a quality glove, Rivas will need to perform better at the plate than he did last season to hold a roster spot. He’s an accomplished, high-OBP minor league hitter, owner of a .289/.391/.411 line in parts of four seasons. That makes him an interesting upper level depth pickup. Rivas still has two option years remaining as well. If he cracks San Diego’s 40-man roster at any point, they can keep him at Triple-A El Paso for the next couple seasons.