The Indians announced that they have released closer Chris Perez. The right-hander would have been eligible for arbitration for the final time this winter, and MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz projected a $9MM salary, making him a clear non-tender candidate. By releasing Perez now, the Indians are essentially non-tendering him, but they won't have to use a 40-man roster spot on a player they knew they weren't going to retain. Likewise, it's beneficial to Perez, as it gives him and agent Nez Balelo of CAA additional time to explore the free agent market.
The 28-year-old Perez earned $7.3MM this season and pitched to a 4.33 ERA in 54 innings. Perez saved 25 games and posted a solid 9.0 K/9 and 3.5 BB/9, but he became shockingly homer-prone and wilted in the season's final two months, posting a 7.52 ERA with seven homers allowed in his final 20 1/3 innings of work.
Originally acquired along from the Cardinals (along with fellow right-hander Jess Todd) in exchange for Mark DeRosa, Perez has served as the Tribe's closer for the past four seasons. In 267 2/3 career innings with Cleveland, he's registered a solid 3.33 ERA and saved 124 games, averaging 8.4 strikeouts per nine frames along the way.
Perez will join a crowded market for closers that also includes Joe Nathan, Brian Wilson, Fernando Rodney, Joaquin Benoit, Grant Balfour, Kevin Gregg and Edward Mujica. His late season struggles and the stiff competition on the free agent market might make it difficult for him to land a closing gig this offseason. He comes with a bit of personal baggage, having recently pleaded no-contest and being convicted of misdemeanor drug abuse after having marijuana shipped to his home. Perez was fined, placed on probation for a year and will speak to youth about drug use (per the Associated Press).
With Perez out of the picture, the Indians will have some work to do at the back of their bullpen. Fellow right-hander Joe Smith is also a free agent, and Vinnie Pestano experienced quite a bit of regression in 2013.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.