Let's get one thing clear: a singular position change move will not fix the 2023 KC Royals. But catcher Salvador Perez looked comfortable at first base in his first start there in years. The Royals need to give him more opportunities there. Doing that will benefit the team moving forward as well as Perez himself.
Salvador Perez at first base has many benefits for the KC Royals.
Perez made just his fifth career start at third base in the series opener against the Minnesota Twins. Royals fans likely remember the Herculean game from shortstop Bobby Witt Jr., but Salvy's defense provided several highlights as well. He eased any concerns about his defensive ability at first with a key snag to end the top of the first inning.
Perez's career numbers are not outstanding at first, but those were skewed by a bad start in 2013. He recorded his only error at first in that season and has had a 1.00 fielding percentage in 53 1/3 innings since then. Outside of concrete stats like putouts, assists, and errors, the baseball world is still figuring out the best way to measure a player's defensive impact. My favorite metric is Defensive Runs Saved or DRS. It is the predecessor to Outs Above Average, so excuse me for being a bit behind the curve. It can be fairly complicated to calculate and understand the math, but Fielding Bible provides a good breakdown of their metric here. Anyway, back to Salvy.
Looking at all the people to play first for the Royals this season, Salvy is one of two to record a positive DRS. Matt Duffy, Vinnie Pasquantino, and Nick Pratto all measure out as defensive liabilities at the position to various degrees. Perez and utilityman Nicky Lopez both have 1 DRS each, with a combined 12 innings of work at first. Lopez not getting more work at first base makes sense. He plays multiple other positions, in the infield and outfield alike. That is the case for much of the roster, with a few exceptions. Should Perez be an exception? It doesn't make much sense in the long term.
The Royals will likely have Perez on the team for the remainder of his contract. There has been some trade chatter this season, but Perez has final approval over any trade. Besides, the Royals do not trade their team captains within the first year of their tenure. It doesn't make sense, from an on-field or off-field perspective. If Perez is intent on staying in Kansas City, he should look at moving to first base. First base is a popular position for catchers to transition to after years behind the plate take their physical toll. Minnesota legend Joe Mauer made that move years ago after concussion issues forced him to stop catching. The move extended his career by one or two more years, years that would have been lost behind the plate. Perez should make that move as well.
The catchers behind Perez would greatly benefit from the move as well. Freddy Fermin has been one of the hottest Royals batters since the All-Star break, surpassing everyone's expectations by a mile. Then, the Royals have Logan Porter waiting in the minor leagues, who has shown great potential as a catcher. By transitioning Perez to a different position, it would open up opportunities for these talented catchers to step up and contribute to the team's success. Additionally, Perez's experience and leadership skills would still be valuable on the field, even if he was not behind the plate.
Perez has not given fans a reason to doubt him at first. He doesn't need to be the top option, but he can still be an option and give manager Matt Quatraro more flexibility in building the lineup. There is nothing not to love about this move. The question is, will the Royals pull the trigger and do what is best for them and Perez? Only time will tell.