Old news by now, but the Royals and Salvador Perez tore up his old team-friendly deal and replaced it with something closer to fair market value.
Let’s quickly review the dollars remaining on the old deal. Perez is due to make $2 million this year. Remember, this would have been his second year of arbitration eligibility. This is where his contract really begins to skew in favor of the team. Had he not signed the extension, he would probably be earning somewhere between $6 and $8 million this year. Following the 2016 season, a series of club options were in place. He was set to make $3.825 million in 2017, $5.15 million in 2018 and $6.3 million in 2019.
With a $6 million signing bonus to be paid up front, Perez is taking a pay cut from the agreed upon club option for 2017. Instead, he will be making $3 million. From there though, the pay begins to adjust upward and is more in line with the market. Perez will bank $7.5 million in 2018, and $10 million in 2019. That’s a realization of $5.225 million just on salary alone over his old contract. Fold the $6 million he will collect for putting his name on the paper and the Royals are paying Perez $11.225 million more over the life of the old contract.
Then, the Royals tacked on a couple more years at $13 million each. That brings the total package to $52.5 million guaranteed.
The Royals, who years ago drafted college seniors so they could pay them a $5,000 signing bonus, just ripped up the most team friendly contract in franchise history so they could give a player more money. As in $37.225 million more. These are not your older brother’s Royals.
From Dayton Moore: “We went into Salvy’s previous deal with expectations that obviously he was going to be a terrific player. We’ve always believed in him. As a talent, as a person, as a teammate. And he’s out-performed that contract. He’s an underpaid player in the game.”
A general manager of a major league baseball team just referred to one of his players as “underpaid.” Let’s all take a moment.
I mean, come on. This isn’t supposed to happen. Sal’s agent is supposed to call the Royals, ask to renegotiate his deal, and the Royals will either delay or outright refuse. Why should they redo a contract? A deal is a deal, right? Players don’t give back money when they underperform their contract. Except the Royals kind of know someone who did.
We found the Meche money!
“I reflect back to Gil Meche and what Gil Meche did and in the spirit that he felt it was important to retire and forgo the last year of his contract when he couldn’t perform as a starting pitcher,” Moore said.
It’s interesting that Moore should reference Meche in the Perez press conference. Meche, at one point, represented optimism for the Royals and Moore. He was the first big free agent signed by Moore, and he pitched well for the first couple seasons of his five year contract. Then, he was horribly abused by manager Trey Hillman, and in a low point in franchise history, had his career ruined.
Tuesday’s press conference felt very much like a World Series victory lap. Sure there’s been parades and talk shows and the adoration that comes with winning the championship, but this felt different. It was the Royals celebrating another one of their key players by doing what they thought was the right thing. Absolutely, it’s crazy the Royals decided to throw so much money at a player who may not even be a catcher three years into this contract. But they saw it as the right thing to do.
Moore, Ned Yost and even Perez spoke about respect, love, and family. Integrity and leadership. There is a genuine feeling about these comments. This isn’t some laundry list of platitudes. It’s real. The Royals saw an important player who was underpaid and they set to correcting that. How far have we come from the days where players like Johnny Damon couldn’t wait to get out of the city? Simply amazing.
My initial reaction is they went a little too far in their correction. I’ve been on the record saying they could pick up his remaining options and sweeten the deal with a little bonus money upfront while tacking on a couple more options at the end. I guess what feels troublesome about the contract is, family or not, the Royals are on the hook for $26 million for Perez’s age 30 and 31 seasons. Team options would have given the Royals some measure of protection it feels like they’re sorely going to regret not having. You’re looking a player with four consecutive years of declining offensive production, who plays an extraordinarily demanding position, who has already had a knee surgery and has suffered several concussions. The risk the Royals assumed when they awarded Perez an extension after he had played in only 60 big league games is nothing compared to the risk they are holding on the back end of this contract now.
Here is Perez’s workload from 2013 to 2015 compared to other regular catchers:
That doesn’t include the 143 innings he caught in the 2014 postseason or the 146 innings from the Royals run to the title in 2015. That’s a grand total of 3,845 innings over the last three years. Perez is practically lapping the field. In this day and age, that’s an insane amount of time behind the plate.
Maybe you could forgive the workload if Perez had been able to keep up his offensive production. Yet, that hasn’t been the case.
His wRC+ has declined in each season since he made his debut.
2011 – 126 wRC+
2012 – 114 wRC+
2013 – 106 wRC+
2014 – 92 wRC+
2015 – 87 wRC+
In order for the Royals to get value from this reworked contract Perez has to say behind the plate for the entirety of the deal. And in order for him to say behind the plate, the Royals must learn to give him regular days of rest.
The prism of production makes this look like a risky deal for the Royals. Yet there will be fallout of a more positive kind. For starters, players take notice. They knew Perez sacrificed a lot of earning power with his first deal. They will see how the Royals “did the right thing” to bring him closer to market value. Will that translate to free agent signings? Who knows. But the Royals are building on their newfound reputation as a destination. Players already want to play here. Something like this can’t hurt. There’s also some goodwill on the part of the fans, too. Nearly everyone knew about Perez’s contract and felt he was underpaid. This is well received by many corners of the fanbase. And we can probably throw the final mound of dirt on the old “Royals are cheap” mantra. Ten years ago, something like this never happens. Moore and the Glass family have completely turned this franchise around, on and off the field.
Still, the Royals just exchanged a contract that carried minimal risk for one that has a great deal of it, especially in 2020 and 2021. With all contracts, time will ultimately render the verdict, but for the moment, this feels like the Royals gave away too much. The price of family and sentimentality runs high.