This seems to be a general trend for the Indians. Every time there is young talent in the organization, the team seems to lock them up for the long haul early. First, it was Kluber. Then it was Carrasco. Then it was Kipnis. Then it was Brantley. Then it was Gomes. They recently gave Jose Ramirez a new contract, and may be looking to extend Francisco Lindor on a long-term deal.
Now, it’s Roberto Perez’s turn. On Monday, the Cleveland Indians announced that they had signed Perez to a 4-year $9 million extension with two club options. With Yan Gomes locked up behind the dish on his own extension, the team looks set at the major league level for years to come.
What is the deal?
Indians beat reporter Jordan Bastian broke the story and gave the details of his contract. In total, the Indians are paying Roberto Perez a guaranteed $9MM over 4 years. Perez will earn 550K in 2017, $1.5MM in 2018, $2.5MM in 2019, and $3.5MM in 2020. There are two club options on his deal as well. Perez could earn $5.5MM in 2021 and $7MM in 2022 with $450K buyouts for both years. This deal buys out all of his arbitration years (which he would have been eligible for next winter) and could now remain with the team at least until his age-31 season. In comparison, this deal is very reminiscent of the extremely club friendly 5-year $7MM extension with 3 club options that Salvador Perez signed in 2012. This deal was completely renegotiated after Perez became one of the leagues best catchers.
What are the Indians getting in Perez?
Since making his debut in 2014, Perez has slashed .220/.318/.355 in 505 total plate appearances. In 2016, Perez only hit .183/.285/.294 respectively. It is important to note that he spent the first several months of the season on the disabled list due to a fractured hand and was rushed back to the big leagues following the injury to starting catcher Yan Gomes.
What the Indians are paying for is his defense. Perez rated as one of the best pitch framers in the game and threw out an unreal 50% of base runners and 43% of runners in his career. With more teams willing to pay catchers large sums of money for good pitch framers (just ask the Twins and Jason Castro), the Indians were able to get a steal. Perez is a starting catcher in a backup role. If Gomes is either traded or injured, Perez is more than capable of stepping into the starting lineup and managing the pitching staff.
What does this mean for the Indians?
This does two things for the team. First and most obviously, the organization is continuing a trend of locking up its core for the foreseeable future. Having both Gomes and Perez on long term deals gives them certainty behind the dish, as well as giving their pitching staff a reliable and trustworthy catcher. Organizationally, they have Gomes and Perez on the major league roster with Francisco Mejia in AA Akron and quickly moving through the system. Mejia was originally in the trade agreement with the Brewers that would have brought Jonathan Lucroy to Cleveland before Lucroy used his no-trade clause. Now still in the organization, Mejia seems to be the catcher of the future for the Indians. If the Indians feel that they are only one piece away from a World Series run, they can trade from their depth at catcher and send Mejia away, as they were inclined to do last year.
This deal gives the Indians another advantage: cost certainty. With the rising cost of player salary, having cost certainty over your roster is imperative. Arbitration adds a level of uncertainty; so buying up a player’s arbitration years is critical. Players on club friendly contracts are more easily traded and can bring back a larger return in prospects. If the Indians window of opportunity closes or Mejia rises to the big leagues and takes over the starting catcher duties, the Indians could trade either Gomes or Perez and restock the farm system. This deal continues to show Indians fans that they are committed to this core, which is something that these fans haven’t seen in a long, long time.