The Rangers announced that they’ve exercised their $6MM club option on left-hander Martin Perez. The 2018 options of Tony Barnette ($4MM) and Mike Napoli ($11MM) have been declined. Barnette will receive a $250K buyout, while Napoli receives a $2.5MM buyout.
In coaching staff news for the Rangers, Texas also announced that it has hired former Mets pitching coach Dan Warthen as its new assistant pitching coach and hired former big league right-hander Colby Lewis as a special assistant to GM Jon Daniels.
The 26-year-old Perez hasn’t exactly made good on his once lofty prospect status, but he’s developed into a dependable back-of-the-rotation starter. Given the affordable nature of his option and the steep $2.35MM buyout that was associated with that option, it’d have been nothing short of shocking to see his option declined.
The 2017 season saw Perez log a team-high 185 innings with a 4.82 ERA, 5.6 K/9, 3.1 BB/9 and a 47.3 percent ground-ball rate. Obviously, his run-prevention numbers weren’t anywhere near where Perez or the team would’ve hoped, but he’s made 65 starts across the past two seasons for a Rangers team that is in desperate need of innings. Andrew Cashner and Miguel Gonzalez are free agents, leaving Perez and Cole Hamels as the only true locks for the Texas rotation. Other options include Nick Martinez, A.J. Griffin and Yohander Mendez, but the Rangers very clearly need to add multiple arms to the rotation for the coming season.
Barnette, 34 later this week. made his Major League debut with the Rangers in 2016. A former Diamondbacks farmhand, Barnette never cracked the Majors early in his career and instead went overseas to find enormous success pitching in Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball. He earned a two-year Major League contract with the Rangers as a result of efforts in Japan and was every bit worth that investment in his first year with the club.
In 2016, Barnette pitched to a 2.09 ERA with 7.3 K/9 against 2.4 BB/9 with a 46.3 percent ground-ball rate in 60 1/3 innings out of manager Jeff Bannister’s bullpen. However, his strand rate plummeted in 2017 as his BABIP rose, causing his ERA to spike to 5.49. Barnette’s strikeout rate actually improved in ’17, and metrics like FIP and xFIP didn’t feel he was all that much worse than he was in 2016. However, the disappointing bottom-line results and a need for more bullpen stability caused the Rangers to move on. Barnette’s strong 2016 season and promising uptick in punchouts could generate him some interest on big league deals with a low base salary this winter, but many teams will likely hope to bring him into camp on a minor league contract.
The 36-year-old Napoli swatted 29 homers in his return to Arlington this season but saw his batting average check in south of the Mendoza Line and his OBP land in the upper .200s. Overall, the benefit of his considerable power (.235 ISO) was counteracted by a .193/.285/.428 batting line and below-average baserunning. Both Fangraphs and Baseball-Reference pegged him slightly worse than replacement level. Napoli struck out at a career-worst 33.6 percent clip and also popped up at a career-high 15.6 percent pace. A troublesome 38.1 percent of his trips to the plate resulted in a punchout or an infield fly. He’d already been informed that his option would be declined (as previously detailed on MLBTR), and he’ll now return to the open market in search of a new team for the 2018 campaign.