The Guardians announced Friday that they’ve exercised their 2022 club option on third baseman Jose Ramirez and declined a club option on catcher Roberto Perez, making him a free agent for the first time in his career. Cleveland also confirmed the previously reported hiring of Chris Valaika as the team’s new hitting coach.
Ramirez’s $12MM option was among the easiest option calls any team will ever have to make. His contract also contains a $14MM club option for the 2023 season. Perez, meanwhile, will receive a $450K buyout in lieu of a $7MM option and explore the open market.
There was never a shred of doubt that Ramirez’s option would be picked up. The 29-year-old has cemented himself as one of the game’s elite players and lived up to that billing once again in 2021, slashing .266/.355/.538 with 36 home runs, 32 doubles, five triples, 27 stolen bases and elite defense at the hot corner.
With just two years remaining on his contract, Ramirez will surely be the subject of offseason trade inquiries, but Cleveland needn’t feel obligated to move him unless an absolutely mammoth trade offer is made. Ramirez’s contract is the only one on the books for the team in 2022, and with a modest arbitration class there’s no real financial concerns for Cleveland, even if the hope is to again operate on a relatively stripped-down payroll. Suffice it to say, president of baseball ops Chris Antonetti and GM Mike Chernoff will have plenty of leverage if (when) clubs do come calling about Ramirez.
For all the speculation about a potential Ramirez trade, however, it’s important to note that there’s no reason Cleveland can’t seek to contend in 2022. Ramirez will return alongside a core that features Shane Bieber, Aaron Civale, Triston McKenzie and 2020 breakout arm Cal Quantrill. The lineup is rife with question marks, but Amed Rosario hit well in his first season with the club and there are several top-end prospects on the cusp of big league readiness. For the first year under a rebranded moniker, it’s only sensible that the Guardians would look to put out a more compelling product.
As for Perez, he’s been unable to replicate his breakout 2019 showing at the plate — a season that saw him swat 24 home runs and post a .239/.321/.452 batting line. Paired with his excellent defense, that offensive output made Perez one of baseball’s best all-around catchers in 2019. Since then, he’s dealt with a pair of shoulder injuries and a fractured finger. It’s quite obviously possible that the arm/hand injuries have combined to sap Perez’s production, but with a more affordable and comparably strong defender available in the form of Austin Hedges, Cleveland unsurprisingly chose to move on.