5:25pm: Perez’s surgery was performed today, manager Mike Matheny tells reporters (Twitter link via Alec Lewis of The Athletic). Doctors expect he’ll need eight weeks to recover. Perez will also surely require a minor league rehab assignment before returning to the Royals. A return in late August or early September seems possible, based on the timeline provided by Matheny.
12:15pm: The Royals announced today that franchise catcher Salvador Pérez will undergo surgery to repair a ligament tear in his left thumb. He’s headed to the 10-day injured list, retroactive to June 21, but the club noted he’s expected back at some point this season. Outfielder Edward Olivares has been reinstated from the IL to take his spot on the active roster.
It’s the second time this season that Pérez heads to the IL because of problems with his left thumb. He lost 11 days in May with what the team called a thumb sprain but returned to play for a bit more than three weeks. The seven-time All-Star reaggravated the issue on Tuesday, and this time his recovery will require surgical repair. The team hasn’t specified a timetable beyond noting that Pérez should return in 2022, but he’ll certainly miss multiple weeks and it wouldn’t be surprising if he’s eventually transferred to the 60-day IL.
This has been a down year for Pérez even when he’s been healthy enough to take the field. He’s hitting .211/.254/.426 through 236 plate appearances, well shy of the .284/.323/.561 mark he posted between 2020-21. Pérez has popped 11 home runs and posted a top-ten slugging figure for a catcher, but his on-base percentage ranks among the bottom 20 hitters leaguewide.
Last March, Pérez signed a four-year contract extension that took effect this season. He’s making $18MM this year, followed by successive $20MM salaries in 2023-24 and a $22MM mark in 2025. The deal also contains at least a $2MM buyout on a 2026 club option. The 32-year-old remains an integral part of the franchise’s future, and there’s little reason for the club to rush him back. The Royals enter play Friday with a 25-43 record that has them at the bottom of the AL Central.
While Pérez is out, highly-regarded rookie MJ Melendez will assume the bulk of the catching time. The 23-year-old entered this season among Baseball America’s top 50 overall prospects after a breakout 2021 showing in the upper minors. Melendez led all minor leaguers with 41 longballs between Double-A and Triple-A. He reached the majors last month and is off to a nice start, hitting .234/.333/.421 with an excellent 13.1% walk rate and a manageable 22.6% strikeout percentage through his first 43 games.
Melendez has seen time in right field and at designated hitter while sharing time with Pérez, but he figures to move to his typical catching position regularly now. Longtime K.C. backup Cam Gallagher is on the active roster as the #2 option, while Sebastian Rivero is on optional assignment to Triple-A Omaha as upper level depth.