This weekend, the Kansas City Royals extended catcher Sal Perez on a four-year deal with an option for a fifth year.
That the Royals would extend Perez, the face of their franchise, was no huge surprise. He’s never played for another organization, he was due to hit free agency, and the Royals wanted to make sure he stuck around for years to come. It’s what we hope the Cubs do with – for one example – their own face of the franchise, Anthony Rizzo.
But where the deal was something of a considerable surprise is what the Royals are paying to keep Perez around. The catcher, who turns 31 in May and is set to make $14.2 million this year, gets a whopping $82 million more guaranteed over the following four years, his ages 32-35 seasons. Guaranteeing, a year in advance, a $20+ million AAV to a catcher at that age is pretty eye-popping, even if you hadn’t factored in Perez’s various injury issues (elbow surgery, knee surgery, concussions).
To be sure, Perez was incredible in 2020, hitting .333/.353/.633 (162 wRC+), but it was 37 games. Catchers sometimes develop later offensively, but not necessarily so late that you’d bet on 32+ being the best offensive years. Perez’s defense has generally rated as good, not great. And before 2020, he had Tommy John surgery in 2019, and hit .254/.285/.438 (91) in the five years before that. I love to see players getting paid, but I really cannot wrap my head around this deal from a pure performance projection/value standpoint. It’s just not even close.
Great get for Perez. Head-scratcher in the extreme for the Royals.
But maybe they’ve got an angle here, and it’s just about taking care of players. That’s been their MO for a while now, including when they extended Perez previously because his initial pre-arb extension was deemed unfair by the team. Indeed, his initial deal with the team was egregiously low, but when does a team ever say that publicly, and then give the guy a new contract? And then follow that fair deal up with another deal that is even more player-friendly? Maybe the Royals really want the players of the world to know that they take care of their guys in a way other teams do not.
You can read about how the Royals value Perez far beyond his statistical performance here at Royals.com, and Andy McCullough also offers a great write-up on the unique situation:
I wrote a column about Salvador Pérez, the Royals, the perils of ruthless efficiency, and what the public should expect from the billionaires who own baseball teams. https://t.co/iPyKoriUUJ pic.twitter.com/Jii7Dpzs6J
— Andy McCullough (@ByMcCullough) March 22, 2021
As for market impacts here, I really have a tough time seeing any. The price tag is so far above anything you’d expect to see that I think it’s going to be very easy for teams to poo-poo this as a comp.
THAT SAID, it does make me wonder if it could specifically impact a guy like Rizzo at the margins. No, there’s no player comp overlap, but maybe this just further suggests that when you’re talking about a true face of the franchise type player – especially one who had previously signed what wound up being a very team-friendly contract – you go a little further to get a deal done and reward a guy. Yeah, we all understand the efficiencies and the limited pool of dollars available (the pool might be larger than teams want to admit, but yeah, eventually it is limited). But even if you’re just thinking about “value,” isn’t there “value” in doing right by the most important players in your organization’s history? There’s gotta be some tangible long-term value there, right?
In any case, I mostly just wanted to share the news on Perez, because it was so surprising. But, yeah, maybe go ahead and extend Anthony Rizzo soon, Cubs? He’s said he’s optimistic. Meet him.