Royals Take A Page From Rays, Extend Perez

Salvador Perez just joined a very exclusive club. By signing a five year, $7 million guaranteed contract — which includes three additional option years — with the Kansas City Royals, the 21-year-old catcher joins Evan Longoria and Matt Moore as players who have signed significant extensions before accumulating a year of major-league service time. While Longoria’s and Moore’s contracts are considered major steals for the Tampa Bay Rays, the Perez deal is a bit more uncertain. With the Royals starting their build a competitive team, they need to be sure they’re extending the right players.

Comparing Perez’s extension to Longoria’s and Moore’s pretty much ends at service time. Since Perez’s future in the majors isn’t as strong as Longoria’s or Moore’s, we can’t just come out and say the deal is a steal for Kansas City. The Royals rightly realized this, of course, and even if Perez meets all of his incentives and gets all of his options picked up, he’ll only make $26.75 million. That’s much less than either Longoria or Moore.

The contract’s timing is a bit puzzling, though. Perez still had three years to go before he hit arbitration, and he likely would have been paid close to the league minimum during that period. When we look at catchers who went year-to-year — or had their arbitration years bought out — Perez’s contract still looks somewhat favorable.

Catchers Age Year 1 salary Year 2 salary Year 3 salary Year 4 salary Year 5 salary Total
Geovany Soto 24 $401K $575K $575K $3M $4.3M $8.85M
Kurt Suzuki 23 $395K $410K $600K $3.4M $5M $9.81M
Carlos Ruiz 28 $425K $475K $1.9M $2.75M $3.7M $9.25M
Kelly Shoppach 27 $404K $1.95M $2.25M $3M $1.35M $8.95M
Chris Iannetta 24 $396K $415K $1.75M $2.55M $3.55M $8.66M
Jeff Mathis 24 $415K $450K $1.3M $1.7M $1.5M $5.37M
Jarrod Saltalamacchia 22 $397K $411K $419K $750K $2.5M $4.48M
Salvador Perez 21 $750K $1M 1.5M $1.75M $2M $7M

This table is far from perfect, but it gives us some insight into what catchers make once they reach the majors. The chart features catchers who either made their major league debut five seasons ago, or began receiving significant playing time in 2007. There are some imperfections here, of course. Only Soto, Mathis and Saltalamacchia truly went year-to-year during this five-year span. Every other player on the list eventually signed extensions — or contracts over one season — mainly to buy out arbitration years. If the Royals had waiting for Perez to go through his first couple of seasons year-to-year — and extended him once he hit his arbitration years — they likely would end up paying slightly more than $7 million based on the extensions handed out to Suzuki, Ruiz, and Iannetta at that point in their careers.

While Saltalamacchia and Mathis made less than what Perez is schedule to make during his first five seasons, both of those players were downright awful during that period. Saltalamacchia struggled to find playing time, and Mathis is still considered one of the worst hitters in baseball. It seems somewhat unlikely that Perez will be as bad as either player during his first five seasons. The Royals are committed to him as their catcher of the future, so he’ll receive plenty of playing time. And though his bat is due for some regression, it’d be hard to be as bad of a hitter as Mathis. Even if Perez completely collapses, the Royals will really only lose a couple million dollars.

If you look back up at the chart, you’ll notice that there’s one area where Perez appears to be an outlier. He’s easily the youngest player on the list. As Rob Neyer reminded us last night, that puts Perez in pretty good company. That’s not to say Perez is guaranteed to be the next Joe Mauer or Ivan Rodriguez — because that would be insane — but it’s interesting to see the success rate of these young catchers.

It’d be foolish to expect Perez to carry his .331/.361/.473 slash line to the upcoming season. His line was aided by a .362 BABIP, and he only played in 39 games. Even with some major regression, Perez still looks like he could be a useful player this season. In 580 plate appearances for 2012, ZIPS projects Perez’s slash line to be .274/.303/.394. That’s not bad, considering the average catcher hit just .245/.314/.390 last year. And once you consider Perez’s age, that projection looks even better.

If Perez can adapt to major league pitching, this deal could be a pretty significant steal for Kansas City. His bat might not play immediately, but offensive production at his position is so low that sluggish hitting still might not destroy his value. Even if Perez can’t adjust, there’s a decent chance he still lives up to the $7 million he’s guaranteed. And if Perez becomes one of the worst players in baseball, the Royals will have only overspent by $1 million or $2 million. It’s risky to extend such a young player with so little experience — but in this case — the Royals made the right move.




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Chris is a blogger for CBSSports.com. He has also contributed to Sports on Earth, the 2013 Hard Ball Times Baseball Annual, ESPN, FanGraphs and RotoGraphs. He tries to be funny on twitter @Chris_Cwik.

40 Responses to “Royals Take A Page From Rays, Extend Perez”

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  1. Dekker says:

    Congrats to Mr. Perez to getting years of security, but, wow, he left a lot of money on the table even before factoring in inflation.

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  2. ToddM says:

    How the heck is this, in ANY way, risky for the Royals?

    Sure, if Perez gets hit by a truck in training camp tomorrow, they’re out some money, but risking an extra few million for the chance to get a starting catcher with an average bat and superior defense… for EIGHT years and an absolute max of twenty-seven million…

    Wouldn’t you “risk” a few million for the chance to come out somewhere in the neighborhood of 100 million ahead, and at least 50 million ahead of where you’d end up if you went year-to-year through arbitration.

    No brainer. Small risk, potentially huge reward. If Perez’s bat plays even modestly above expectations he’ll be near the top of Cameron’s “most valuable trade chips” list in a couple years.

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  3. KCExile says:

    Chris do you think the timing of this deal is meant to build goodwill with the players, show the fan base Glass isn’t cheap as a way to soften up the market for Boris clients Moustakas and Hosmer who are going to cost a lot more anyway?

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    • geo says:

      Glass did say he expects Moore to approach Hosmer and Moustakas on long term deals this year.

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    • Paul says:

      The Royals FO just doesn’t think that way. They extended Perez for reasons having only to do with him and where he fits into the future of the club. Plus, they know from experience that there is no such thing as “softening up” Boras.

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      • KCExile says:

        I think softening up the market for his clients is different. Look at Cargo in COL, Boras is his agent too, afterall. I think this gesture goes a long way toward building the goodwill necessary to get Moose, Hosmer and co. locked up. They’re also presumably using this to begin to erode the narrative that the Glass family are tightwads. A solid financial commitment put forward by the Glass family will also have the added benefit of convincing a worried and haggard fanbase that this team won’t be a flash in the pan

        Hopefully the Hosmer Escrow account funded by Gil Meche’s retirement will be put to good use soon

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  4. Okra says:

    Just another example of how MLB continues to get smarter and smarter …

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  5. Hurtlockertwo says:

    Let’s see, Vernon Wells gets $63 Mil more, Jason Werth is due $112 mil more,
    Adam Dunn $44 mil, Alex Radriquesz $143 mil more….this guy really, really looks like a bargain.

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  6. Colin says:

    Interesting deal from a couple perspectives. One it looks like they probably slightly undercut what Perez might be expected to make through 5 years but they also picked up an injury risk as well. My guess is the injury risk probably wouldn’t result in that big of a discount and they still probably net about 1 million in savings on this deal.

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    • ToddM says:

      If you expect Sal Perez to make only 8 million total through all three arbitration years, you must think he pretty much sucks.

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      • Colin says:

        I believe this only takes him through his 2nd arbitration year at least according to the article.

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      • ToddM says:

        Three relatively cheap team options is the key, Colin. Paragraphs one and two.

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      • Colin says:

        I saw that, I am only talking about guaranteed money because that is the only part of the deal that comes with an injury discount aside from the buyout figures.

        If you include the three option years yes they figure to be saving more than 1 mil long term. I am assuming though the article does not expressly say that those options total around 18 mil with perhaps the remainder as incentives.

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  7. Justin says:

    While his BABIP was obviously unsustainable his LD% was 29%, so it wasn’t entirely luck. I’m sure both numbers will decrease in 2012, but I think this is a nice signing due to his age and club options.

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  8. As a Tigers’ fan, I wish Dombrowski did more deals like this. Detroit has Fister, Boesch, and Avila (among others) who would be good candidates for these early extensions if they were willing to sign them.

    I am sure most fans wish their teams did more deals like this.

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    • steex says:

      Point still stands, but none of those guys are really in the same situation – they all have a couple years of service time under their belts. Fister is already 27 years old and has about three and a half years of time spent in big league rotations, so while still potentially a candidate for an extension, it’s nothing like what the Rays (and now Royals) have been doing.

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      • Fair enough. What the Rays and Royals have done IS more extreme. I’m just supporting the general idea of extending solid pre-arb guys and buying out a few free agent years.

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      • ToddM says:

        You gotta get to guys that want the guaranteed money and have not yet proved they’re likely to cash in as soon as the arb years end.

        Of the three Tigers you mentioned, I think Boesch is the best candidate, although he’s already entering his third campaign. Sign him now to a three year deal (thru arb years) plus some team options, as I think he’s going to prove himself as an above-average corner outfielder at a minimum.

        It’s probably too late for Avila and Fister. Avila had a superb 2011, and Fister’s Tiger portion of 2011 was even better than that.

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      • Nathaniel Dawson says:

        A tad under two and a half years for Fister. For someone considered almost a non-prospect when he came to the big leagues, he’s accomplished a helluva lot.

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    • shthar says:

      Teams that have good players, don’t bother to do deals like this.

      They release the bum when he gets arbitration and pick another guy with a career minor league obp of .328 and a slugging of .397.

      Meanwhile…JR Towles is crying into his beer.

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      • ToddM says:

        Who was in the majors at 21? At catcher? Bum? If Sal Perez hits even 260/300/360 over the life of this contract, with his defensive skills, the Royals made a good move.

        Now, if his power develops a bit and he actually can hit for a pretty high average, say 290/330/440, they just saved tens of millions of dollars in years four through eight.

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      • shthar says:

        A guy that cant get on base at 21, can’t get on base at 27 either.

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  9. stan says:

    I can’t imagine why anyone wouldn’t like this deal for the Royals. Even if Perez doesn’t establish himself as a starter, that money is as much as you’d pay for a veteran back-up. Not only that but I do think Perez is going to be at least an average starter.

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  10. AMTR58 says:

    Perez is ALREADY a well above average defender at the age of 21. Anyone who has seen him play knows he has a cannon for an arm and a 6’3 230 frame to block with. Mix that with the experience he’ll gain with more and more playing time and you have a guy who could hit .260 but still be well worth the money. If it turns out his .331 avg from last year isn’t a fluke then this deal is highway robbery. GO ROYALS!

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    • Gregory says:

      I agree. Based on what I saw, Perez will control the running game for years and if he can get on base even at an average level I think he’ll be one of the more valuable catchers in the league.

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  11. Nate says:

    Seems like the team options got glossed over in the article. How does the deal jump from $7m to $26m?

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    • Nate says:

      My bad. I see it in the first paragraph. Up to a 8 year deal. Possibility for a lot of savings, with a little up front risk. Nice work, Royals & Perez.

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  12. Paul says:

    The Royals believe Perez is a potential superstar. Whether they are right or wrong on that depends a bit on organizational catcher valuations. Even if he is right around that ZIPS projection for the life of the deal, it’s a huge steal from their perspective because 1) His defense alone will give them huge surplus value; 2) They have not had a true anchor at C since Mike McFarlane; 3) His intangibles are off the charts; and 4) His reputation with pitchers up and down the system is stellar – they want their best pitching prospects to know they’re going to work with Sal when they get to KC, and they want him to be the one to break them in.

    From the organization’s perspective this is a NO risk deal, which others may disagree with. From a fantasy perspective and WAR valuation perspective it’s also nowhere near as favorable, but the Royals are definitely happy today.

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    • shthar says:

      Which is a perfect illustration of how sad that team is.

      Only a team owned by a guy who used to work at walmart would lock up a back up catcher.

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  13. Antonio Bananas says:

    I know this is fangraphs and “lol @ emotions” but what are the chances that Hos, Moose, Myers, and their pitching prospects see this and sign team friendly deals wanting to be a part of something potentially special?

    If they ALL pan out, the Royals have a dynasty, if half of them pan out, the Royals will be pretty good for a long time. Gotta be thinking about that.

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  14. shthar says:

    Unless the yankees just signed Chris Gimenez, Pudge Rodriguez AND Ramon Castro, then is just a terrible contract.

    Of course, it does free up all the time it would have took to sign a back up catcher each of the next 5 seasons for even MORE batball stragemetising.

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  15. kick me in the GO NATS says:

    I hope the royals surprise a few this season, but I doubt the pitching is anywhere near good enough.

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    • ToddM says:

      They’re a threat to score an above-average number of runs, but they’re not a threat to score more than they’re going to allow. Not this year.

      Unless KC’s pitching develops a lot better than it did last year, the choices here are going to be 1) spend on some good pitching (unlikely), 2) be willing to trade good young position players for pitching (not necessarily a good idea), or 3) waste this crop of hitters and still not contend.

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