Oliver Pérez came on in the sixth inning of yesterday’s Indians game to strike out Royals first baseman Ryan O’Hearn. In the process, he locked in $2.75MM, as Zack Meisel of the Athletic points out (via Twitter).
Cleveland’s biggest signee of this past offseason, Pérez was guaranteed just $2.5MM for 2019. However, that pact came with a 2020 option that vested for $2.75MM yesterday, as the lefty appeared in his 55th game of the season. It would escalate to $3MM if he entered 60 contests.
As MLBTR’s Mark Polishuk noted when taking inventory of every vesting option around baseball, Pérez seems likely to take home that $3MM maximum salary, with over a month remaining to get into five more games. Given his production, the club will no doubt be happy to keep cutting the checks.
While he hasn’t been quite as otherworldly in 2019 as he was last season, Pérez has been more than effective, again putting up sparkling strikeout (29.3%) and walk (6.1%) rates with run prevention numbers to match (2.83 ERA). While that production has been in short stints (he’s logged just 35 innings in those 55 games), his per-batter dominance has been a boon to a bullpen that’s been the league’s best at keeping runs off the board. There’s no doubt the 38 year-old will be happy to be back next season, as he recently told Meisel he planned to continue playing regardless of his contract status.
If there’s any reason for concerns about this development, it could be that pitchers with Pérez’s skillset will be diminished by the forthcoming three-batter minimum for relief pitchers. Left-on-left specialists, particularly, seem most threatened by the rule, which is likely to kick off in 2020 and could enable opposing managers to stack their lineup with opposite-handed pinch hitters to put the pitcher at a platoon disadvantage. While Pérez handled right-handers reasonably well between 2017-2018, they’ve teed off on him this season, and pitchers as reliant on a slider as Pérez is tend to have sizable platoon splits.
That said, $2.75MM (or $3MM) remains a reasonable price to pay for a pitcher who’s been so effective in his time in Cleveland. In pursuit of a playoff spot, whether it be the AL Central or Wild Card game, expect Terry Francona to lean heavily on the wily southpaw down the stretch.