Indians

The Case for Trading Chris Perez

Jason Miller / Getty Images

Jason Miller / Getty Images

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.

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  • BatMasterson

    I think you’re seeing what you want to with a lot of those numbers. If the Indians trade Perez, they’re giving up on this year and therefore on competing with this group of players thus starting another rebuild. Perhaps you could trade him in the offseason, but you need to ride this season out.

  • BatMasterson

    Also, Perez and Pestano have been equally effective this season. People say Perez gives up runners and makes things interesting but it’s no more so than Vinnie.

  • MSkog

    I agree with every word you’ve written here. I also acknowledge that this is a boring comment but I felt it needed to be said.

  • Tim K.

    I mostly agree with the word “fungible”.

  • MSkog

    Now that you bring it up, I was particularly fond of “voila” and “siring.”

  • AMC

    I would support trading Perez at the end of the year. The Indians only have 3 guys currently pitching out of the pen who are at least somewhat reliable and Perez is one of them. This team can’t afford to just give up a top bullpen arm if they want to contend for a playoff spot.

  • 5KMD

    I agree closers are overrated but the Tribe bullpen is not flush with reliable talent right now.
    CP, Vinnie, J Smith are about it. Can’t trade away a reliable arm while in contention. Unless the bounty is something you can’t refuse.

  • mgbode

    ok, the question isn’t if the Indians should entertain trade offers. they should entertain trade offers on every single player because you have to always be on the look-out for a team that overvalues any particular player (as you mention, bullpen arms and closers in particular).

    however, which LF/1B that may be on the market would be good enough to trade Chris Perez? that is the most tangible portion of this debate.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Perez is probably the first All-Star here in awhile that I can remember me not caring if he gets traded. I think all of his need to be heard put it over the top. Well that and his antics on the mound.

    I think he’s a timebomb ready to explode on the mound just as much as off. His departure would weaken the bullpen no doubt but honestly he’s really probably the only asset I see the Indians having available to trade.

    The question is as mgbode says below is what can they get for him? They definitely need a LF, a 1B and another SP. He won’t bring all three. You’d be lucky if he brought 2/3. And finally which teams have those three available?

  • nj0

    How would trading an expendable piece to get someone who can contribute right now be “giving up on this year”?

  • http://twitter.com/GreatestHurley Jason Hurley

    I whole-heartedly disagree with you on this. You can replace bullpen arms relatively easily (we have a minor league system full of them), slide Pestano to the closer’s role, and you’re all set. If you can get the right-handed left-fielder this team so desperately needs, it shows you’re all-in on this season, not that you’re giving up.

  • hrd53

    I also agree with everything you have said here. I would love to see Perez shipped out of Cleveland while his value is high. And i wouldn’t have a problem with doing it in the next couple of weeks… don’t let the door hit ya Chrissie!!

  • nj0

    Hit the nail on the head. For whom with whom? You’d need to find a trading partner that a.) wants a closer badly, b.) has a solid player with an affordable contract that plays a position of need, and c.) said trading partner needs to value Chris Perez highly.

    I actually have the biggest issue with c.) simply because every team is going to notice the fastball velocity and his up-and-down couple of years. Not sure what the value on him really is.

  • Steve

    The problem with trading Perez – The only teams trading for closers are giving you back prospects, and not major league talent. They’re trying to compete too.

    And while some teams get silly in the FA market for closers, the vast majority of the teams do not overvalue them in trades. Even for an all-star closer, you’re going to get back a B-grade prospect, not a LF game-changing bat.

  • Steve

    Maybe you’ve missed how the AAA reliever battalion has performed. Perez-Pestano-Smith and a whole lot of garbage so far.

  • mgbode

    going through those the team that leapt to mind was the Yankees. not sure how much they value Perez or if they truly view one of their own (Soriano?) as the long-term Mariano replacement though.

    if Gardner comes back full-bore soon, then perhaps Swisher could be a candidate? (switch-hitting, RF/1B who makes under $10mil a year this year and next)

    Yankees would still have Granderson/Gardner/Ibanez/Andrew Jones as OF options.

  • nj0

    Also, I don’t think Perez hates being here. I mean, I guess it’s a fair hypothesis, but I think a lot of his outbursts come from him being a guy who speaks his mind and just doesn’t get the Cleveland zeitgeist (heck, I was born and lived there for 30ish years and I feel the same way). I won’t say you can’t call him a jerk, but I don’t know if I’d go so far to say he doesn’t want to be here. He has said some pretty nice things about the fanbase, the team, the organization, etc. over the years as well too.

  • Rocko

    Dolan’s are CHEAP! Agree

  • nj0

    Eh, I don’t see that happening. Like Steve said else where in the comments, teams don’t regularly trade talented everyday players for a guy who might pitch every third day. Yankees may spend a lot in FA, but they don’t regularly trade guys away.

  • Ritz

    Exactly… Trading Perez would make the entire bullpen extremely weak – not exactly a good idea in the middle of a playoff race.

  • scott

    CP is obviously a problem child and he is at his peak as far as value at this point. I do not see it as giving up if we dump him and gain a good outfielder (LF) and some prospects. Baseball is a funny thing and I believe that in baseball front offices must strike while the iron is hot and if the front office holds onto CP we may be in for a downhill slope with him in years to come. Why not shop him around and see what is out there? Maybe take some offers and see what works. I must admit though betting the farm on one guy like we did last year with Ubaldo is a risky business. I say why not, lets see what kind of value he really has.

  • Brett

    I disagree with your statistical analysis. You’re overstating the impact of his velocity drop. It went up from 09 to 10, but his K rate dropped, and it has actually rebounded some this year from last year’s drop, with a corresponding increase in K/9 rate.

    Additionally, his BB/9 rate has consistently improved over the last 4 years. You see that when good young throwers (as Perez was when we acquired him) learn to become better pitchers. A sustainable drop in BBs (even if it regresses more toward 3 per 9 inn.) outweighs the slight drop in velocity and Ks.

    Finally, I think the Tribe keeps him for these next 2 years, until we get some consistent production out of the minor league arms and also delaying Vinnie’s inevitable promotion and pay raise.

  • Harv 21

    totally agree, Jon. Also agree with those saying we need a trade partner first. It’s like the ubiquitous post-draft whine: “just trade down!” (with whom?).

    Also, I really detest Chris Perez and his look-at-me-ness. Detest him more than any Indian since Milton Bradley. No, make that Keith Hernandez.

  • BenRM

    A great piece and also a very funny read!

  • JeBron_Lames

    Ship him out, tired of ol’ Chuck E. Cheese.

  • mgbode

    I agree, but it was the only team I could come up with quickly that potentially fit the needs and could afford to part with a decent OFer.

  • https://twitter.com/jimkanicki jimkanicki

    perfecto.
    like button.
    clapping meme.

    and corgi puppies.

    —–
    btw, i still think ‘beckett for perez’ works on some level if the dollars can become neutralized.

  • nj0

    Understandable. Didn’t mean to be so dismissive.

    Predicting baseball trades is next to impossible imo. Would anyone have accurately predicted the Jimenez trade or Lowe deal?

  • http://www.facebook.com/davelb87 David W. Elbrecht

    Closers are absolutely overrated, but that’s the exact reason why I’m against trading Perez. If Perez goes, then Pestano gets moved out of his current role (where he is of much more value as far as I’m concerned). The most valuable guys in the bullpen are the ones that can come in under pressure and work out of it, not the closers who generally come in with the bases empty (Mariano Rivera being the exception). By trading Perez, you force one of our other pen arms (likely Pestano, possibly Smith) out of the role where they are of the most value and then have to start using Rogers, Sipp, etc. in more crucial roles.

    Keep Perez where he is because it keeps our better arms (Pestano and Smith) where they make the most impact.

  • http://www.facebook.com/davelb87 David W. Elbrecht

    That being said, if someone wants to trade for him this offseason, I’d definitely listen. Once any reliever hits arbitration, I have no problem getting rid of them and grabbing a replacement on the cheap. No position is as volatile as relief pitching when it comes to year-by-year performance (see: Axford, John)

  • mgbode

    no worries, didn’t take it that way.

    baseball execs do seem better at keeping secrets. oftentimes even the big trades happen with a team least expected until the last few hours (Lee to Seattle, etc.)

  • steve-o

    All valid points, but what we could get for him would not improve the team enough to offset what we’d lose. The type of deal that has a chance to improve this team now would be to trade one or two of our prized prospects to a struggling team looking to dump high priced players. Too bad we can’t trade with the Indians from a few years ago.

  • David

    The Moneyball logic: pick a player, put him in the closer’s role, inflate his value, and then trade him. Seems to work. I like Perez (though I think he should learn to shut up), but agree that we could potentially win a lop-sided trade for him.

  • pearlyk7

    I agree 100 percent. Everyday players always will have a greater impact on the entirety of a season than a closer. Strike while the iron is hot Tribe. Perez hates Cleveland, and you will regret not trading him for a quality player(s). His future performance cannot be predicted, but it is apparent he will not stick around when he becomes eligible for free agency, so sell smartly while his value is peaking.

  • JoeLo

    Yes, trade your closer because the Indians have such a plethora of guys to fill that spot.

    Name the last 3 effective closers (30+ saves/year) the Tribe has had?

  • Joe

    Anyone who’s played fantasy baseball is fully aware of how quickly stud closers can turn to duds year to year, and how many replacements consistently pop up out of nowhere. If we got any type of value in return for Perez it would be a robbery by Antonetti.

  • Kris

    Very sound reasoning, but I disagree. Pestano could absolutely step in and close games for us, but who replaces him? If we are out of contention at the trade deadline it becomes a different story, of course, but I like this team’s chances and would rather see us be buyers than sellers.

  • Petefranklin

    Cashman’s worse than Antonetti though so theres hope.

  • Petefranklin

    Compiling a bullpen is like throwing spaghetti on the wall….hope it sticks. Heck, the tribe manages a pretty good one every year, so get a bat and hope another loose noodle sticks.

  • Petefranklin

    By this offseason his value will have dwindled both on and off the field.

  • Petefranklin

    Turn our mediocre team into a stronger one by selling high. It’s a reality check but the only way the tribe can realistically have a strong chance. Remember last year after the break he wasn’t as good, so if we can get a bat to replace Damon I’m all for it, just dont tell superfan Bik.

  • BatMasterson

    Because you can’t win without him this year. Sure, Pestano can probably do his job as well, but then who does Pestano’s job? You take a strength and make it a weakness.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_2LNPJGFBP7NF5FFSYZGEJV4UQQ Ryan Seacrestoothpaste

    Totally agree with your assessment. Well said! I really thought Perez was going to be gone this winter. He’s really overrated. On top of it Pestano is the better pitcher but Perez would never take a demotion. If Rogers keeps dealing he has the real lights out closer material. That type of closer might be worth hanging onto. Perez walks the tight rope too often. Reminds me of Borowski.

  • http://twitter.com/Dennymayo Denny

    “I love me some Vinnie and would be up for some siring if so called upon.”

    Clapping.

  • nj0

    “Because you can’t win without him this year.”

    I don’t hold to this at all. This franchise won plenty with shaky closers.

    96 games in 07 with Joe Borowski saving 45 while posting a plus five ERA. If the Indians were to trade Perez, the smart thing would be to keep Pestano at his job and move some marginal reliever into the closer role.

    Not only is the closer overvalued and overrated, the amount of BS mystique that people project onto it is staggering.

  • Vindictive_Pat

    This is my thought too… I agree with Jon’s logic and it makes sense in a normal year where the Indians are out of contention by the All-Star break. But this season the Indians are going for the playoffs and we don’t have a bullpen loaded with trustworthy guys to put in a close game. I would also worry about the effect this move would have on other players in the clubhouse. How will they feel about being a Cleveland Indian if they see that putting in an All-Star performance gets you shipped off to another team? I think the mood in the locker room affects on-field performance more in baseball than in any other sport becuase it requires such finely-tuned motor skills. Unhappy players will reflect their unhappiness in their body language which will affect their swing or pitching motion… that’s my thought anyways.

  • ReggieG

    I wanted to trade Perez before the start of the season…Vinnie would be just as effective as the closer

  • JoeDean

    If we could trade Perez for a hitter we would have under contract for 3 years, I would do it because we have Pestano to take his place and Allen to take Pestano’s place.If Perez is going to cost us $6 million in 2013 and $10 million in 2014, we should factor that into the trade if we go after someone like Justin Upton who is owed a lot through 2015. Trade for Justin; sign BJ Upton in the offseason along with a starting pitcher and we would be in good shape.We will likely trade Choo and Jimenez because we only have them through 2013 so in 2013 we would shave off a lot of salaries including Choo, Jimenez, Perez, Hafner, Lowe, Sizemore, Kotchman, Carmona, so we could afford the 2 Uptons and a pitcher like Dempster and perhaps a 1st baseman or catcher (Napoli) It’s a pipe dream, I know.

  • http://www.facebook.com/kenneth.smith.92167 Kenneth Smith

    I agree that we should trade Perez if for no other reason then he is a cancer on the Indians team. His value is high and we should get a lot for him.

  • JREEEF

    I wanted to trade CP badly in the offseason for value purposes, but now I feel like he gives this team a little bit of personality and mojo. If it’s the right deal for a legit difference maker then I’m all for it. Now I feel like your undervaluing closers a little bit here…CP is not perfect but I lived through the Wood, Wickman and Borowski years and I never want to go back. There’s no guarantee that Pestano will be a great closer. I’ve seen many great set-up men over the years totally lose it once they were moved into the closer role. (Arthur Rhodes for example but there are many others)