Longtime big league catcher René Rivera took to Instagram to announce his retirement Friday morning. “In June 2001, I had the opportunity to make one of my dreams come true, to get signed as a professional baseball player,” Rivera wrote. “21 years later, I thank God for the career he has allowed me to have. Today I want to announce that I am retiring as a professional baseball player.”
The 39-year-old goes on to thank every organization for which he played. He also expressed gratitude to his family, coaches, representatives and fans before concluding he’s “ready for the next step of (his) career.”
Rivera, a native of Puerto Rico, was selected by the Mariners in the second round of the ’01 draft. He was in the majors a little more than three years later, debuting as a September call-up in 2004 not long after his 21st birthday. Rivera spent a few seasons as a depth catcher for Seattle, combining to appear in 53 MLB games over his first three years.
After the 2006 campaign, Rivera kicked off a nomadic path that’d define his entire career. He was out of the majors entirely between 2007-10, bouncing between various organizations’ upper minors affiliates and spending some time in independent ball. Rivera returned to the bigs with the Twins in 2011 for a 45-game stint and played the following year in Triple-A.
A brief showing with the Padres in 2013 set the stage for Rivera to improbably break through as San Diego’s primary catcher at age 30 the next year. He connected on 11 home runs over a career-high 329 plate appearances during the ’14 season, hitting .252/.319/.432. The following offseason, San Diego sent him to the Rays in the three-team blockbuster that moved Wil Myers to Southern California, Steven Souza to Tampa Bay and then-prospect Trea Turner to Washington.
Rivera played in a personal-high 110 games with Tampa Bay but couldn’t recapture his prior year’s success at the plate. He hit .178/.213/.275 over 319 trips to the dish with the Rays and was released before the following season. He quickly signed with the Mets and would see a decent amount of action in Queens over the latter portion of his career. Rivera played in 65 games for the Mets in 2016 before logging 74 contests between New York and the Cubs the next year. He split the 2018 campaign with the Angels and Braves, then returned to the Mets as a depth catcher from 2019-20. Rivera’s final major league action came in 2021, when he got into 25 games between the Indians and Nationals.
While Rivera was rarely much of an offensive contributor, his strong defensive reputation earned him repeated opportunities. He ultimately logged parts of 13 MLB campaigns over a professional career that spanned two decades, suiting up at the MLB level for ten different teams. Rivera played in 542 big league contests, hitting .221/.273/.354 with 43 home runs across 1629 plate appearances. He spent nearly 4000 innings behind the plate, posting consistently strong marks from pitch framing metrics and cutting down a fantastic 36.5% of attempted basestealers.
MLBTR congratulates Rivera on his lengthy run in the professional ranks and wishes him the best in his post-playing endeavors.