Braves select bullpen option Armando Rivero in Rule 5 draft

BY Zach Dillard • December 14, 2016

For the third consecutive season, the Atlanta Braves targeted a potential bullpen piece in the Rule 5 Draft, selecting right-hander Armando Rivero fifth overall on Thursday morning.

Rivero, 28, spent the past three seasons with the Iowa Cubs, the Chicago Cubs’ Triple-A affiliate.

The 6-foot-4 righty originally signed with Chicago for $3.1 million out of Cuba boasting a fastball that sits in the mid-90s, a hard slider and a changeup. Rivero is still awaiting his first major-league call, but he dominated the highest levels of the minors, posting a 2.13 ERA and 2.84 fielding-independent pitching in 67 2/3 innings pitched last season. His strikeout rate of 13.97 led all minor-league pitchers with at least 65 innings in 2016.

Rivero has struck out 12.4 batters per nine innings over the course of his minor-league career,

Rivero's selection does not guarantee his place in the Braves’ 2017 plans. Per Rule 5 draft rules, Atlanta will pay Chicago $50,000 for the reliever’s services, but he must stick on the 25-man roster for the entirety of the season, barring injury, or else the Braves have to offer him back to the Cubs at half the price.

The move follows in the footsteps of the front office’s 2014 and 2015 moves in the Winter Meetings final moments when they selected Daniel Winkler and Evan Rutckyj, respectively. Winkler, who underwent Tommy John and recovered in the Braves’ system before getting re-injured early last season, continues to stick Atlanta’s roster, but the Yankees bought Rutckyj before the end of spring training.

The Braves needed to make room on the 40-man roster to select Rivero, and starting pitcher Williams Perez was the odd man out.

Atlanta released Perez, who claims a 5.18 ERA in 34 career appearances, as the additions of Bartolo Colon, R.A. Dickey and Jaime Garcia have overloaded the rotation’s options. The franchise claims one rotation spot is up for grabs at the moment with Mike Foltynewicz being considered the de facto favorite, and Perez sat behind Matt Wisler and Aaron Blair in the pecking order.

The Braves owned one of the top bullpens in baseball down the stretch in 2016. With the re-signing of Jim Johnson, a glut of young relievers (Mauricio Cabrera, Jose Ramirez, Chaz Roe, Arodys Vizcaino), the return of talented arms from injury (Winkler, Shae Simmons, Paco Rodriguez) and promising prospects knocking on the door (A.J. Minter, Akeel Morris), Rivero will be expected to perform in camp.

If Rivero lives up to his early billing and minor-league numbers, however, swapping him for Perez was an easy decision.

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