The Rangers have agreed to terms on a contract with free-agent lefty Martin Perez, reports FanSided’s Robert Murray (via Twitter). It’s a one-year, $4MM contract for Perez, MLB Network’s Jon Heyman adds. Perez, a client of Octagon, will return to the organization that originally signed and developed him. He made his big league debut with Texas in 2012 and spent the next seven seasons with the Rangers.
Perez, 31 next month, spent the 2019 season with the Twins and was with the Red Sox in 2020-21 before returning to Texas. In his three years away from his original club, the southpaw turned in 341 1/3 innings of 4.88 ERA ball with rather pedestrian strikeout (18.4%), walk (8.7%) and ground-ball (44.9%) rates. Boston declined a $6MM club option in favor of a $500K buyout on Perez after the 2021 season.
Once lauded as one of the sport’s premier pitching prospects, Perez has instead settled in as a back-of-the-rotation starter. Those 2019-21 rates represented a slight uptick over his career strikeout rate and a slight downgrade over his career ground-ball rate, but generally speaking, Perez’s output in three years away from Texas was roughly in line with his lifetime numbers at the big league level. He doesn’t necessarily work deep into starts, but Perez has avoided the injured list for the past three seasons, with the exception of a brief absence this past summer following a positive Covid-19 test. He’ll give the Rangers some needed stability at the back of a starting staff that was — and still is — in need of multiple arms.
Perez will join fellow offseason signee Jon Gray and right-hander Dane Dunning as one of the only three locks in the Texas rotation. Lefty Taylor Hearn could get another look, depending on other moves that are made, but he was hit hard in limited work out of the rotation while thriving in the bullpen this past season. Right-hander A.J. Alexy had a big year in the upper minors but a tepid 4.70 ERA in 23 big league frames. Prospects Spencer Howard and Glenn Otto, acquired at the trade deadline, both were hit hard in their brief MLB looks. Right-hander Yerry Rodriguez and southpaw Brock Burke are both on the 40-man roster but were both ineffective in Triple-A this past season.
Put another way, Perez figures to be one of multiple arms acquired by the Rangers, whether via free agency or trade. Texas has been strongly linked to hometown star Clayton Kershaw, and the general belief is that Kershaw will either return to the Dodgers this winter or sign with the Rangers to be close to his family. The Rangers are also known to be keenly interested in A’s first baseman Matt Olson, and Oakland has several arms who could be on the trade block alongside their All-Star first baseman (Sean Manaea, Chris Bassitt, Frankie Montas).
The Rangers’ hope is surely that 2021 No. 2 overall pick Jack Leiter and 2019 first-rounder Cole Winn — two of the sport’s most promising arms — will be able to factor into the big league rotation sooner than later. That may not be the case until 2023, however, so the veteran Perez will give them a bridge to those younger arms. His $4MM salary is a mere footnote in what’s been a massive offseason of spending for president of baseball operations Jon Daniels and general manager Chris Young. Texas has also signed Corey Seager (10 years, $325MM), Marcus Semien (seven years, $175MM), Gray (four years, $56MM) and Kole Calhoun (one year, $6.2MM), bumping their projected payroll to just under $134MM. That’s a notable increase from the past couple seasons but still a good bit shy of 2017’2 franchise-record $165MM payroll.