The Royals plan to approach Salvador Perez soon about a new contract at some point soon, Yahoo! Sports’ Jeff Passan writes, citing a team source. Perez’s is currently in the midst of a five-year, $7MM deal that Passan aptly calls “the best bargain in the big leagues.”
The Royals signed Perez before the 2012 season, when Perez was still remarkably unproven and not the sort of player who would typically receive a multiyear deal. Via MLBTR’s Extension Tracker, at the time of the deal, just two players in recent history had received extensions while they had less service time than Perez did. Both those players, Evan Longoria and Matt Moore, were widely regarded as top young talents. Not only did Perez have just 158 big-league plate appearances to his name, but he also hadn’t been an outstanding minor-league hitter. Now, of course, Perez has made two All-Star teams and won two Gold Gloves, and he’s been a key part of the Royals’ last two successful seasons.
“When I signed my contract, I was 100 percent sure I wanted to sign it,” says Perez. “I didn’t want to feel like, ’Why am I doing that?” But I didn’t know what kind of player I was going to be like.”
At this point, there are plenty of valid reasons for the Royals not to negotiate a new deal with Perez, just as the Cardinals have not negotiated a new deal with John Lackey, another valuable player whose contract called for him to be wildly underpaid this year. Perez’s current deal calls for him to be paid $1.75MM in 2015, followed by $2MM in 2016. The Royals have options on his services for $3.75MM in 2017, $5MM in 2018 and $6MM in 2019, with the salaries in those three years increasing a total of $5MM based on awards bonuses. As Passan points out, those very low figures could allow the Royals to spend money elsewhere, money they might need as a variety of other players become eligible for free agency.
The Royals could, of course, renegotiate the deal as a gesture of goodwill. “I had nothing,” says Perez. “Where I’m coming from, they’re talking about a million dollars. And I don’t got nobody in that moment to explain to me how it’s going to be or how high it could be.”
Perez did have an agent, Gustavo Vasquez, however. And it wouldn’t be fair to the Royals to characterize the contract as the result of an opportunistic club taking advantage of a poor and naive young man, as Vahe Gregorian points out in the Kansas City Star. At the time of the deal, the Royals were taking a risk on a highly unproven young player, and it was a clear possibility that the Royals would get very little for their $7MM investment.
“I don’t think there was another catcher in the history of our game … that had been signed (to such a long-term contract) with that little amount of service time,” Royals GM Dayton Moore tells Gregorian.
Just as no one would have expected Perez to return a portion of his $7MM guarantee if he hadn’t turned out the way the Royals had hoped, then, the Royals do not seem morally obligated to give Perez more money now that the deal has worked in their favor. And from a baseball perspective, there are few reasons for them to do so. The possibility of controlling additional years is the only tangible benefit the Royals would likely gain from renegotiating Perez’s contract. But they already control Perez through his age-29 season, and there should be little motivation for them to try to control him beyond 2019, since projecting how a catcher might perform in five years and as he enters his thirties seems tricky at best. That’s particularly true in Perez’s case, given his size and his often heavy workloads.