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Should the Royals renegotiate Salvador Perez's contract?

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Why make a team-friendly deal less friendly?

John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

On Monday afternoon, popular reporter Jon Heyman tweeted that the Royals and Sal Perez may be in talks to adjust the terms of Salvador Perez's contract.

First, it would basically be unprecedented to elect to renegotiate a contract to pay a player more money without extending his contract. It is not uncommon to see teams rework a deal to pay a player more, but in return the team buys out more future years. The team needs to get something out of the deal if they are going to give up more money and that is more years of control over a player.

However, recently the Royals did restructure their agreement with Jeremy Guthrie, with Guthrie given a bit more money - $200,0000 - in order to defer some money to free up money for the 2014 budget. We previously talked about possibly restructuring Salvy's deal in December when Heyman raised the possibility. I wrote about this same subject back in June of last year as well after Sal raised the issue about his contract.

For reference here are the terms remaining on Perez's contract

Year Age Salary Notes
2016 25 $2,000,000 -
2017 26 $5,100,000 Club option
2018 27 $6,200,000 Club option
2019 28 $6,000,000 Club option
Total - $19,300,000 -

So at a minimum the Royals already control Perez through his age 28 season and that brings up the two main points.

Should the Royals pay Salvador Perez more money?

What is the reasoning for a team to pay a player more money than they have already agreed to? Maybe it is just the capitalist in me that asks that question. I am personally very pro-business and in regards to my fandom I root for the best interest of the team, not the best interest of the players. Often the two are the same, but very often they are not. The Royals are not exactly a cash-rich team, still living under the crushing heel of a poor television deal despite rising revenues in baseball and their own books. It would not really make sense for a normally budget-conscious club to start giving away money despite back-to-back World Series appearances and a win.

There are though a few scenarios I could perhaps (and I mean it would take some hard convincing, maybe even bribery) be talked into in regards to paying Perez more.

Guaranteeing his three club options

They are basically guaranteed already. Even if Perez goes into a huge decline (something he's already slightly done which I'll get into in a second) he'll at least be retained as a backup catcher you could imagine. Though $6M is a little expensive for a club option, it is not an insane amount, and would serve as a cushion for Salvador Perez should he have a career-threatening injury.

Salary raises in 2018 and 2019

It would absolutely not make any sense to give Perez more money for 2016 and especially not for 2017 when what seems like 90% of the team is due for an arbitration raise and the team is trying to use every dollar to compete for a championship. Perez himself is already going to get a 150% increase in his salary in 2017, jumping from $2M to $5M.

However a raise could be given in the two latter years of the deal. Payroll is expected to drop off significantly, barring the Royals re-signing all the impending free agents after 2017. Out of goodwill (and this is solely just goodwill) they could give him extra money when the Royals can better afford it.

Again, I don't actually agree with any of the above scenarios but instead am offering some sort of alternate universe where it could theoretically make sense.

Should the Royals extend Salvador Perez past 2019?

Here is what Perez has done the past three seasons:

Year Age Games wRC+ FLD BsR WAR
2013 23 138 106 6.6 -2.5 3.7
2014 24 150 92 6.3 -3 3.1
2015 25 142 87 2 -6.7 1.6

It has been a multi-year decline for Perez, who has gone from above average hitter to 13% below league average. Last season was basically a decline in all facets of the game for him from hitting, fielding, and baserunning - yet the Royals are thinking of extending him now?

One thing I've written about previously with Perez and a thing we all are aware of is his proclivity to swing at balls that shouldn't be swung out.

Year O-Swing% Swing% O-Contact% Contact%
2013 37.5% 49.9% 80.1% 74.4%
2014 46.2% 55.8% 77.2% 85.5%
2015 43.3% 54.7% 73.5% 83.2%

Salvador Perez has always been a free swinger. In 2013, Perez swung at a lot of pitches but made decent contact on those outside pitches, resulting in an above-average season at the plate. Now, Perez is swinging at many more outside pitches but making much less contact on them. He has traded swinging at outside pitches for swinging at more zone pitches but for whatever reason it is not working for him. His strikeout rate has jumped up slightly (2%) so perhaps those strikes being swung at simply not connecting.

The other thing we all know about Perez is how many games he has played in. Ned Yost essentially refuses to rest the man. Perez played the first 29 games for the Royals in 2015 without a single day off. Then saw a 13-game stretch in late May followed by a 15-game stretch in June immediately after. During the June stretch he sat in game two of a doubleheader, then was trotted out for the next 11 games. From late-May to early-July, Perez played in 51 of the Royals' 53 games. Perez mercifully got some rest in August, but played in almost every game in September despite the team up 12 games in the division. Despite Yost saying that he'll rest Perez more 2015, he played in just eight fewer games than he did in 2014 and four more games than he did in 2013.

From 2013-2015 nobody has played more games at catcher than Perez and it's not even close.

Player Games at C
Salvador Perez 410
Yadier Molina 366
Miguel Montero 347
Jonathan Lucroy 345
Russell Martin 341

If you are thinking that Salvador Perez can move to first base or designated hitter to get some rest, he simply has not shown the bat to be productive at those positions. He has to catch to have much value and his ability to carry out those skills becomes questionable with each season he gets 150 games behind the plate.

From age 23-25, Perez is fifth all-time in games caught.

Player Games at C wRC+
Ted Simmons 470 126
Gary Carter 451 124
Johnny Bench 448 126
Ivan Rodriguez 433 103
Salvador Perez 430 95

The problem is Perez is not nearly the hitter that the other guys were and is not the defender Ivan Rodriguez was.

Perez is a unique player. He's a terrific defensive catcher, who doesn't walk, doesn't strike out, and is about a league-average hitter. That is a hard profile to find a match for, but here are the closest comps with a decent spread (the stats are through their age 23-25 seasons):

Name G BB% K% wRC+ Def WAR
Salvador Perez 430 3.3% 13.6% 95 44.6 8.4
Del Crandall 387 7.9% 11.1% 98 41.1 8.3
Benito Santiago 368 5.5% 16.1% 90 49 8.1
Matt Wieters 365 8.6% 18.4% 97 44.7 7.8
Kurt Suzuki 363 6.6% 11.5% 95 32.8 7.5
Butch Wynegar 342 11.6% 6.1% 87 47.6 7.3
Clay Dalrymple 334 10.9% 7.9% 89 35.2 5.5
Yadier Molina 364 6.9% 8.4% 79 49 3.6

Of course the most standout name on there is Yadier Molina who went from average player to MVP-caliber player in his peak a few years ago. However, Molina's bat took a huge step forward as it trended upward as he got older, unlike Perez whose bat has trended downwards as he has aged. One other thing to note of course is that Perez is well above all the players in games played behind the plate. He has played 43 more games more than Del Crandall, who played in the 1950s.

I think at this point Perez is a league average or slightly better young player who is signed to a longer-term deal for a below market price. That sounds like a pretty valuable asset for any team, and the Royals have no incentive to change the course.