6:21PM: Tommy John surgery has indeed been recommended for Perez, MLB Network’s Jon Heyman tweets. Perez is expected to undergo the surgery next week. He first may meet Dr. ElAttrache for final confirmation, as Royals manager Ned Yost and trainer Nick Kenney told MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan (Twitter links) and other reporters that Perez will head to Los Angeles for the examination on Wednesday. Yost and Kenney both stopped short of referring to Perez’s injury as any sort of a tear, instead describing it simply as ligament damage. Perez was shut down for four weeks earlier this offseason, Yost and Kenny said, after the catcher experienced a flexor strain during offseason training.
1:36PM: Royals catcher Salvador Perez has been diagnosed with damage to the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow, the team announced. Perez is headed for a second opinion from Dr. Neal ElAttrache.
The ultimate prognosis is not yet known, clearly, but the signs are not promising. In the best case scenario, the workhorse backstop is likely to miss a decent stretch for rest and rehab. If the ligament is damaged enough to require surgery, his 2019 season could be at risk.
Beyond Perez, the Royals have rather slim pickings behind the dish. Cam Gallagher and Meibrys Viloria are the only other two backstops on the 40-man roster — and the only two that have ever seen MLB action. In what could be a sign that the Royals are preparing for the worst with Perez’s diagnosis, the team has already been in touch with veteran free agent Martin Maldonado, as per Jon Heyman of MLB Network (via Twitter).
Kansas City will presumably consider all free agent options both now and perhaps closer to the end of Spring Training, when more catchers will be released from (or opt out of) their minor league contracts if they don’t make their current rosters. The Royals will surely also consider the trade market. The Red Sox stand out as the most obvious potential trade partner in this regard, as Boston is known to be looking to move one of Christian Vazquez, Sandy Leon, or Blake Swihart.
If the Royals go out in search of another option, they’ll likely focus on a short-term fix. Perez, 28, is due to earn $10MM this season under the second extension he signed with the K.C. club. That deal also promises him $13MM annually in the following two campaigns.
One of the few holdovers remaining from the Royals’ 2015 World Series team, Perez is a long-time fixture of the franchise, and was being counted on to continue being a clubhouse mentor to a younger K.C. roster as the team goes through another rebuild phase. Perez hasn’t had an OBP over .300 since 2013 and his framing numbers took a big hit last season (as per both StatCorner and Baseball Prospectus), though he is still considered an above-average defender and provides some extra pop from the catcher’s position. Perez has hit 97 homers over the last four seasons, more than any other catcher in baseball and a number topped by only 33 players in total.