Martin Perez emphatically told reporters late last month that he hoped to stay with the Rangers long-term (link via Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News), and general manager Chris Young told Grant and others yesterday that the team is indeed open to the possibility of signing the veteran lefty to an extension (Twitter link).
Perez, who returned for a second stint with the Rangers on a one-year, $4MM deal over the winter, appears to be in the midst of the breakout season so many thought possible during his minor league days, when he was regarded as one of the top 30 prospects in all of baseball. It’s coming well later than anyone expected, at 31 years of age, but Perez has pitched to a brilliant 2.68 ERA with a career-high 20.7% strikeout rate, a career-low 6.6% walk rate and a 51.9% ground-ball rate that represents his highest mark since 2016.
Now an 11-year Major League veteran, Perez is throwing fewer four-seam fastballs than at any point in his career (6.6%) and has ramped up the usage of his sinker (37%) and changeup (27.7%) in its place. That changeup usage rate is a career-high, and his sinker usage is at its highest point since 2018. He’s also tamped down the use of the cutter he added with the Twins in 2019 but is still using it frequently as a third offering. His curveball, like his four-seamer, only makes a handful of appearances per start (5.1%). Perez has experimented with many pitch mixes throughout his career, but this is the most aggressively he’s ever leaned on the sinker/cutter/changeup trio, and the results are impressive.
The extent to which the Rangers are willing to spend to keep Perez beyond the current season isn’t yet known, but Perez made his feelings crystal clear in that late June interview, telling the Texas beat: “I want to be here and stay here, 100 percent. No — make it 300 percent.”
As things currently stand, righties Jon Gray and Dane Dunning are the only locks for the rotation beyond the current season. Texas is hopeful that touted prospects Jack Leiter and Cole Winn will emerge as high-end options sooner than later, but both have struggled considerably in the minors this season (Leiter in Double-A, Winn in Triple-A). Even if that pair were to right the ship and break through to the big leagues sometime in 2023, there’d still be room for a solid veteran of Perez’s caliber — and that’s obviously a best-case scenario that’s far from certain, given the volatility of pitching prospects.
Whether it’s a Perez extension or a trade that brings some controllable talent to Globe Life Field, Young expressed yesterday that the Rangers may not wait until the offseason to help solidify the 2023 rotation (Twitter link via The Athletic’s Levi Weaver). “I think that as we are building this and evaluating where we currently sit in the standings, and where we want to be this time next year, finding pieces both for the short term and potential fits beyond 2022 is how we’re approaching it,” Young said of the Rangers’ approach to the trade deadline.
The Rangers are currently five games below .500 at 41-46, which takes them completely out of the running in the American League West, where they trail the Astros by a massive 16.5-game deficit. They’re only four and a half back in the race for the American League’s third Wild Card spot, however, and Texas has played considerably better since a terrible start to the season. Following a 2-9 start to the season, they’ve gone 39-37 with a +25 run differential in that span.