Chris Perez is enjoying a nice comeback season in 2012 and made the All-Star team, but the Indians closer has mostly drawn attention for his statements off the field. Perez criticized Cleveland fans for low attendance and a perceived lack of support last spring, and now the right-hander has spoken out against team management in a recent interview with FOX Sports' Jon Paul Morosi.
Perez is clearly frustrated in Cleveland, and if his latest comments were the last straw for Indians' management, it might be best for both sides if they parted ways this offseason. The Indians have a deep bullpen that includes the likes of Vinnie Pestano, Joe Smith and Tony Sipp, with Pestano the favorite to take over closing duties should Perez get traded.
There was talk, in fact, that Pestano could've taken over as closer in 2012 in the wake of Perez's shaky 2011 campaign. While Perez posted a 3.32 ERA, his advanced metrics (4.65 SIERA, 5.01 xFIP) weren't kind and he had a career-low 5.9 K/9, good for just a 1.5 K/BB ratio. Perez has bounced back nicely this season (3.51 ERA, 2.55 SIERA, 3.18 xFIP, a 10.4 K/9 and a career-low 2.0 BB/9) and the righty now has a career 3.20 ERA and 266 strikeouts in 270 innings over five seasons.
At age 27, Perez is in his prime and arguably has more upside than any of the free agent closing options on the market this winter. He will be arbitration-eligible for the second time this winter after agreeing on a $4.5MM contract for 2012, so you can guess Perez is looking at a raise to around $6MM in 2013. The escalating cost might've made Perez a trade candidate anyway for the cost-conscious Indians though other teams around baseball may also hesitate to take Perez given that he's on pace to earn even more in 2014 after his final arb year. Still, $6MM for a proven closer is not a bad price to pay.
Here are a few teams who may be looking for a new closer this offseason….
- Mets. Frank Francisco is set to earn $6.5MM next season and the Mets may not have much payroll space to work with this winter. Still, the Mets are known to be looking for bullpen help and could be looking for a longer-term option than Francisco, who has pitched better (3.55 SIERA, 10.07 K/9) than his 5.49 ERA would indicate.
- Dodgers. A very borderline candidate, as L.A. would only be looking for closing help if Kenley Jensen's heart problems proved to be career-threatening.
- Astros. Wilton Lopez was recently named closer and the rebuilding Astros will likely look for young arms and low-cost veterans in their bullpen rather than pursue a bigger name this offseason.
- Red Sox. It's probably unlikely that the Sox would pursue another closer but Perez would provide depth given Andrew Bailey's injury history.
- Tigers. Jose Valverde is a free agent this winter and the Tigers could look for a younger upgrade to finish games. It's doubtful the Indians would deal Perez to a divisional rival, especially in this case since Perez singled out the Tigers for praise as a team who spends despite their medium market size.
- Yankees. If Rafael Soriano leaves for free agency, the Yankees could want a proven closer on hand should Mariano Rivera have a setback in his recovery from a torn ACL.