TODAY: The Giants officially announced Perez’s deal, which is a minor league contract. Perez can earn a $2.5MM guaranteed salary if he makes the big league roster, with another $1.5MM available in incentives.
JANUARY 29: The Giants have reached a deal with catcher Roberto Perez, according to MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo (Twitter links). It seems as though the Red Sox were the other finalist for Perez’s services, as Boston “made an aggressive bid” for the veteran backstop.
The Pirates (Perez’s former team) and Cubs were also reportedly interested in Perez this winter, but the 34-year-old will instead head to the Bay Area to join a catching mix led by Joey Bart. While Bart has yet to hit much over parts of three seasons and 408 career plate appearances, the Giants still have faith in the former top prospect, to the point that president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi said a few weeks ago that the Giants would likely stick to minor league signings for any future catching depth.
Perez joins Austin Wynns as the top competitors for the backup catching job, plus the presence of Rule 5 Draft pick Blake Sabol is another notable factor. As per the regulations of the R5 Draft, Sabol has to remain on the Giants’ active roster for the entire season, or else the Giants have to offer him back to the Pirates. (The Reds actually selected Sabol in the Rule 5 Draft but the Giants traded for Sabol’s rights.) Wynns was recently outrighted off the Giants’ 40-man roster, and Sabol can also play the outfield, adding more wrinkles to the team’s possible plans behind the plate.
On paper, Perez adds some certainly to the mix due to his strong defense. Long known for his glovework, game-calling, and his ability to work with pitchers, Perez is a two-time Gold Glover and Fielding Bible Award winner. This defensive play kept Perez in at least a part-time role as Cleveland’s catcher from 2015-21, even if he has only a wRC+ of 77 over 1752 career plate appearances. Perez did surprisingly break out for a 24-homer season in 2019, though that performance seems like an outlier due to the livelier baseball used by the league that year.
Injuries have been Perez’s biggest issue over the last few seasons, as he has played in only 65 games since the start of the 2021 season. (He also played only 32 games out of 60 in the shortened 2020 season.) A fractured finger, shoulder problems, and hamstring surgery have all combined to limit Perez’s playing time, with his hamstring injury ending his Pirates tenure after only 21 games last year.
The presence of Wynns and Sabol gives San Francisco some insurance if the injury bug bites Perez again, but naturally the Giants’ biggest hope is that Bart takes a step forward as a reliable MLB starter, so the other backstops are relegated to pure backup roles. With Perez now on board, the Giants are probably done shopping for catchers, perhaps unless an injury situation emerges in Spring Training.