The Rangers have offered left-hander Martín Pérez a two-year contract with an option for the 2025 campaign, reports Jeff Wilson. While Wilson characterizes the sides as “not too far apart,” he notes Texas is expected to tag Pérez with a $19.65MM qualifying offer tomorrow with no multi-year deal in place.
That meshes with a report from MLB.com’s Jon Morosi, who called a QO for Pérez “likely” yesterday. Texas general manager Chris Young has indicated the team is considering a QO but has thus far not made any definitive statement about the team’s course of action. If the Octagon client were to reject a QO and sign elsewhere, the Rangers would pick up a compensatory draft choice between Competitive Balance Round B and the third round (roughly 75th overall) next summer.
Assuming the Rangers go through with the QO, Pérez will have ten days to gauge interest from other teams before deciding whether to accept. A $19.65MM salary would easily be the highest single-season salary in the southpaw’s career, well above this year’s $4MM figure. That possible raise, of course, is a reflection of his All-Star 2022 campaign. The 31-year-old soaked up 196 1/3 innings through 32 starts, pitching to a 2.89 ERA while racking up grounders at a strong 51.4% clip.
That durability and reliability was particularly valuable to a Texas team that otherwise had a lackluster starting staff. Jon Gray was effective when healthy but battled some injury concerns during his first year in Arlington. Dane Dunning was a useful back-of-the-rotation arm, but the rest of Texas’ starters were inconsistent or ineffective. It’s little surprise the Rangers would look to keep Pérez around with the rotation presenting their biggest need, but there’s also reason to question how replicable his 2022 success may be.
Pérez had bounced around a bit in recent years. A top prospect early in his days with Texas, he had a decent age-22 campaign in 2013 but never took the anticipated jump to the top or middle of a rotation. Pérez posted an ERA above 4.30 every year between 2014-21, eventually moving from Texas to Minnesota to Boston. He consistently racked up innings and did a nice job keeping the ball on the ground, but his lack of missed bats limited his upside. Upon returning to the Rangers this year, he made some small tweaks to his repertoire, leaning a bit more heavily on his cutter against left-handers and turning to his sinker more frequently against righties. However, he didn’t dramatically overhaul his approach, nor were his underlying metrics too different from those of prior seasons.
His 20.6% strikeout rate was a career-high, but it was still a bit lower than the league mark. He got swinging strikes on only 8.4% of his offerings, a figure right in line with his 2020-21 clips. Pérez’s ground-ball rate bounced back to peak levels after a recent dip, but he’s posted back-of-the-rotation numbers while getting worm-burners half the time in the past. Much of his success was reliant on surrendering just one homer for every 18 innings pitched, the third-lowest rate among qualified starters and one he’s likely to have trouble sustaining over multiple years.
Financial terms of Texas’ offer aren’t clear, although that they seemingly didn’t put forth a guaranteed three-year proposal appears to reflect the front office’s balancing of those considerations. There’s no question Pérez was immensely valuable for the club in 2022, and Texas has made no secret about their hunt for quality starting pitching. At the same time, expecting him to consistently perform at or near this year’s level without a massive spike in velocity or whiffs nor a dramatic overhaul to his pitch usage is probably unrealistic.
Regardless of whether Pérez accepts the qualifying offer or the sides do wind up working out a multi-year deal, the front office will continue its search for rotation help. Young told reporters yesterday the team was “going to explore all ends of the (free agent) market” for starting pitching and expressed a willingness to add arms via trade (link via Levi Weaver of the Athletic). Texas took a step in solidifying the rotation this evening, sending Kolby Allard to Atlanta for Jake Odorizzi. With the Braves paying down Odorizzi’s contract to just $2.5MM, that represented a low-cost move for capable back-of-the-rotation innings, and there’s no question the Rangers will continue their search for higher-impact arms over the coming months.