In a future season, but certainly not this one, Friday’s news that Salvador Perez is headed for surgery (Twitter link) might spell doom for the KC Royals. The club will likely contend in the next few years and will need team backbone Perez when they do, but this is a season long ago lost, meaning even Perez at his best couldn’t make a significant difference in terms of postseason chances.
That’s not to say, of course, that the Royals won’t miss Perez. They will, and dearly. Even trapped in a season-long slump as he was before his thumb injury was diagnosed as a torn UCL, Perez is the club’s heart and soul, a driving force of what success they have.
Whether he makes it back this season remains to be seen. What is readily apparent, though, is that he’ll miss a significant portion of the 94 games remaining on his team’s schedule entering tonight’s homestand-opening game with Oakland and will certainly miss this year’s All-Star Game even if elected or chosen to play.
But the cloud beneath which his injury places the Royals isn’t without potential silver linings; how silver those linings turn out to be is up to the club.
Salvador Perez’s absence gives the KC Royals a chance to reassess his role.
With Perez out of the lineup for an extended period, the Kansas City brain trust has the chance to reconsider what his role should be when he returns.
Perez is in the first year of the franchise record-breaking, four-year deal worth no less than $82 million he signed last year, which means he’s under team control through at least 2025. But he’ll be 35 at the end of that season, an age when the rigors of catching have typically taken a toll.
And therein lies the rub for Perez and the Royals. Players earning Perez-type money are expected to produce at a high level, but most catchers don’t produce at 35 like they did at 30. Kansas City has by all accounts planned to lessen Perez’s load—his days off and at designated hitter have increased, foretelling the eventual and necessary shift out from behind the plate.
The Royals should take the time their seven-time All-Star catcher is sidelined to seriously consider how, and more importantly when, to expedite that transition. They now have the time to closely evaluate the catching abilities of MJ Melendez, Perez’s heir apparent, and the impact Perez catching less, and playing elsewhere more, will have on the lineup.