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Salvador Perez & His (Ridiculously) Team-Friendly Contract

You probably already know this, but I’m not Dayton Moore’s biggest fan. I, along with many other Royals’ fans, have criticized several of the moves Moore has made throughout his tenure. As general manager of the Royals, Moore has made a lot of bad decisions. It’s hard to pinpoint which one may be the worst of the bunch, because there have just been so many of them.

However, there have been a few excellent moves that Moore has made since 2006, and arguably the best one is locking up Salvador Perez to a long-term contract extension before the 2012 season. How team-friendly is that contract? Take a look:

This offseason, 10 free agent catchers have signed major league contracts.

Brian McCann (Yankees) – 5 years, $85 million

Carlos Ruiz (Phillies) – 3 years, $26 million

Jarrod Saltalamacchia (Marlins) – 3 years, $21 million

A.J. Pierzynski (Red Sox) – 1 year, $8.25 million

Jose Molina (Rays) – 2 years, $4.5 million

Dioner Navarro (Blue Jays) – 2 years, $8 million

Brayan Pena (Reds) – 2 years, $2.275 million

Geovany Soto (Rangers) – 1 year, $3.05 million

Francisco Pena (Royals) – 1 year, $500K

Wil Nieves (Phillies) – terms unknown

In total, the 9 catchers for whom we know the contract details signed for 20 years and $158,555,000, which comes to an average annual value of just under $8 million in guaranteed money.

Perez’s deal was originally a 5 year, $7 million contract, which is an average annual value of $1.4 million. Even if all 3 team options are picked up by the Royals – an additional $14.75 million – the AAV is still just over $2.7 million. So Perez is making peanuts compared to this free agent catcher class, despite being a superior player to almost all of them.

Since his debut in 2011, the only catchers on that list with more fWAR than Perez (7.5) are McCann (8.3) and Ruiz (9.5). However, McCann has accumulated that value in 98 more games than Perez. Ruiz’s total came in 85 more games. McCann is still an excellent hitter and a very strong defender, but with Joe Mauer moving to first base on a permanent basis, I don’t see any other AL catcher who is clearly better than Perez. Carlos Santana is a liability defensively. Matt Wieters doesn’t hit well at all. Jason Castro could top Perez, but he may regress in 2014. I just can’t see any catcher who is definitively a more valuable player than the Royals’ backstop, other than McCann.

The Royals have the league’s second best catcher, and they’re paying him like he’s a mediocre utility player.

Perez has a career line of .301/.331/.451 (111 wRC+) in 989 plate appearances. He’s been an All-Star. He won a Gold Glove. He’s 23 years old. And the Royals will be paying him less money over the next 6 seasons than the Phillies will pay Ruiz over the next 3 seasons. He’ll make less in the next 4 seasons than Pierzynski will make in 2014. It’s absurd how much of a bargain Perez will be through the 2019 season. An argument could be made that Perez is signed under the most team-friendly contract in baseball, and at the very least, he’s in that discussion with Evan Longoria and Andrew McCutchen.

Now don’t get me wrong; Perez is far from a perfect player. He doesn’t walk as much as I’d like, his power tailed off in 2013, and he’s not an elite pitch framer behind the dish. But Perez’s strengths far outweigh those weaknesses, and again, he’s only 23 years old. He could still improve. Steamer projects Perez to put up 4.4 WAR in 2014, and as long as he stays healthy, Perez’s ceiling could be even higher.

Moore has (deservedly, in my opinion) gotten a lot of flak for his moves while in the Royals’ front office. But if I’m going to criticize his bad decisions, it’s only fair to give him credit for the good ones, and that Perez extension continues to be the crowning achievement at the top of Moore’s resume.

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  • jimfetterolf

    Moore’s two worst decisions were resisting program training, which gutted the value of Hochevar, Crow, Montgomery, and others, and keeping Springdale and Omaha as the top two minor league parks, both poor preparation for major league hitters. Beyond that, if he signs Beltran or Granderson, that would be the third worst, as personnel decisions are usually just coin flips anyway, right Angels?

    The Perez contract suggests that both Duffy and Ventura should probably be extended this winter, along with an effort to lock up Hosmer and Shields for a few extra years. Those signings would do more for long term contention and sustainability than buying an overpriced FA with declining skills.

    • moretrouble

      Jim, you’re a good baseball man and I like your comments. Having said that, moving the AAA club out of Omaha is a political and monetary decision KC isn’t prepared to make. Disregarding whether the parks themselves favor hitters or not, the AAA level is played in pretty big towns, like Salt Lake, Memphis, Louisville, Indianapolis, etc. Whether KC could find another town big enough to sustain an AAA club…well…that would be hard to find. I would imagine Minnesota would love to move their AAA club out of Rochester, NY to Omaha.

      I agree with you on extending young players; Duffy, Ventura, and several others besides Perez would be a good idea. I’m not sure agents would advise those kids to lock themselves up like that. Perez left a lot of money on the table, obviously, and his contract may be an outlier.

      Regarding signing Beltran or Grandersoh, I think it would be a good signing for the next year or two, but maybe not for the entire length of the contracts these guys want. That’s instant offense right now, but at what cost over the life of the contract?

      The KC offense may be better next year anyway, even if they don’t sign an FA. Butler and Gordon are due to bounce back and the production out of RF and 2B was pretty good the second half. And, of course, everyone is waiting on Moustakas to emerge as a bonafide MLB hitter.

      Let’s say that we actually care whether KC spends a lot of money – then what happens with Shields, Butler and Gordon over the next couple of years – not to mention the Boras clients, Hosmer and Moustakas? The Royals have some challenges moving forward and it might be wise to conserve their resources right now – if you believe their players will continue to improve. Otherwise, they sign Beltran – have one or two great years – and watch their core disintegrate as they don’t have the salary room to re-sign those guys.

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