April 23, 2014

The Case for Trading Chris Perez

Jason Miller / Getty Images

Those of you who are new around these parts might take this piece as a bit of an over-reaction to Chris Perez’s blown save against the Rays heading into the All-Star break.

So let me reassure you: I’ve wanted to trade Chris Perez for some time now, it’s just that no one would listen to me what with the long hair and the Prodigy song and the overall ninth inning dominance he’s displayed this year.  This is my one chance to at least make the argument before you throw me off the internet for good. Here are five reasons to trade Chris Perez before the July 31st trade deadline.

Closers are, in general, over-valued by MLB teams, meaning the Indians might be able to extract a player whose actual value surpasses Perez’s.  This is pretty straightforward really, and doesn’t have anything to do with Chris Perez in particular.  Perez happens to be a closer.  A lot of teams think that closers are worth a lot.  Voila!  It should go without question that a good position player is worth several times what a good closer is worth in terms of wins added to a team.  Nonetheless, every year we see a team in contention who’s had a rough run of luck in the bullpen pony up a reasonably high price to add a power arm to the back of the bullpen.  If the Indians could add an effective everyday left fielder for Chris Perez, I’d do it in a heartbeat.  There is no bullpen arm for which this statement should ring false.

Chris Perez, in particular, will likely never have a higher trade value than he has right now.  Despite the blown save on Sunday, Perez has had an incredibly effective season so far.  He’s converted 24 of his 26 save chances (92%) while striking out 9.74 batters per nine innings and walking only 1.95 per nine.  He’s been a bit lucky on the long ball so far, only giving up two home runs over 32.1 innings pitched, but outside of that, his peripherals all look to me to be pretty good.

Which is what we’d like any acquiring team to think, because I’m sure I’ve shown you this chart before:

YEAR FB Velocity K/9 BB/9
2009

94.2

10.74

4.26

2010

94.5

8.71

4.00

2011

93.3

5.88

3.92

2012

93.6

9.74

1.95

I see a pitcher who’s lost a mile per hour on his fastball, and outside of the thirty innings he’s thrown this season, I see a guy whose strikeout numbers have suffered because of that drop in three straight seasons.  Do you trust that Perez will continue to strikeout more than a batter per inning after the performance he put together last season?  Do you trust that he’ll allow home runs at roughly half the league average despite not inducing lots of groundballs and never doing it before in his career?  Do you trust that despite his wild ways, he’s learned how to walk half as many batters as he used to?  It’s possible, I guess, but I’m more likely to see a guy who’s value is about to plummet—a guy who’s waiting for the other shoe to drop.

So yeah, sell high, and all that.

Arbitration is about to make Perez expensive, and the Indians need to spend that money elsewhere.  Remember how I said that closers are generally overvalued?  Well, it turns out that could be a problem for us if we keep Perez around much longer.  Perez is making $4.5 million this season—his first season of arbitration eligibility.  That was coming off of a fairly pedestrian 2011 season; basically, he got the $4.5 million just for “being a first-year arbitration-eligible closer”.  Throw in the arbitration raise he’s likely to receive this off-season along with the good performance and we’re looking at something in the neighborhood of $6.5 million for Perez in 2013 and up to $10 million in 2014.  For comparison’s sake, Jonathan Papelbon signed for $12 million in his final arbitration-eligible season, and Perez’s agent knows this.

It should go without saying, but I’ll say it anyway: this team cannot afford to pay any relief pitcher that kind of money.  It’s just not a wise allocation of resources.  We need a left fielder.  We need a first baseman.  We might want to look into extending our right fielder or our ace pitcher.  To spend that kind of money on a closer is foolish for any team, but it’s particularly prodigal for a team that has to cut corners on its payroll like we do.  And someone will pay Chris Perez that kind of money.  The way we make sure it’s not us is by trading him now.

Chris Perez seems a jerk. This is not a convincing reason, I know, so we’ll be brief here.  But he doesn’t want to be in Cleveland.  He actively antagonizes the fanbase.  He whines.  Even if we could sign him to a long-term deal (which, read above, is a TERRIBLE IDEA), I don’t think he’d do it.  He reminds me of those athletes who think that Cleveland is the city you play in before you get to where you’re going.  In short, he just doesn’t get it here.  I wish he did.  But he doesn’t.  And it’s a shame, but so it goes.

Vinnie Pestano is better than Chris Perez.  We’re not going to debate this, because there isn’t really a debate.  If you’re interested in verifying this statement, I’ll direct you to math and facts.  They’re particularly stubborn on the subject.

I was telling my brother that I was ready to trade Perez recently, to which he replied, “That’s just because you want to have like 10,000 of Vinnie Pestano’s babies.”

Now, he did have a point: I love me some Vinnie and would be up for some siring if so called upon.  But making Vinnie the closer wouldn’t really make me all that happy.  It would just be one step closer to trading him to another team, as I’m currently advocating with Perez.

Because I believe that closers are fungible.  I believe that you get their cheap years from them while you can and then let someone else foot the bill for their free agency years.  It’s why I want to move on from Perez right now, even though I know that would be the first step in eventually moving on from Vinnie too.

There seem to me to be plenty of good reasons to trade Chris Perez now.  There are good baseball reasons and good financial reasons and good common sense reasons and even good karma reasons.

But so many people seem against it to me for one (stupid) reason: the DOLANZ R CHEEP.  And to be honest, I think that’s why the front office won’t end up moving him.  They fear the brush back they’d get for trading away one of the team’s All-Stars.

Which is sort of a shame, at least to me.

  • tribetime

    I disagree with your paragraph on Perez being a “jerk”. As a new Clevelander, I will be the first to agree that the fan base with regards to attendance sucks. I have been to plenty of tribe games this season. I also live in the Oakland area and for a town like Oakland to beat us is pretty sad. He is perfectly within limits to call out a fan base couple times. Could he have chosen his words better? Definitely. But Chris Perez has the passion, desire, and ambition to win which is what the city of Cleveland needs. He even has his “twitter questions of the day” and the first 6 or so fans to answer it correctly get free tickets on his name. In short, he has addressed the problem AND is trying to part of the solution which is to increase tribe attendance at the games. I agree with the rest of the article; however, trading Perez is not the option to making the playoffs and making the tribe a contender like it was in the days of Thome, Alomar, Ramirez, etc.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_GOMJCMF3CKJPFROWFIJLKKZWE4 A6768Namvet

    DOLANZ ARE CHEAP is the greatest statement made in this article!!

  • Nutch

    Tribe fan since early 60′s .. Want to see them win. That said. I agree with trading Perez. And I don’t agree with the thought process that Indians are giving up on this year if they do. Pestano just as good (better). If Indians could get power right hand outfielder they would be all the better for it. Also with h
    Perez’s attitude the phrase addition by subtractionseems appropriate.