Mandatory Credit: John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports
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.