After a surprisingly active offseason that saw the Kansas City Royals retain both Mike Moustakas and Alcides Escobar, the Royals kicked off 2018 with a truly awful start. However, after considering the thin state of their farm system and bleak long-term outlook, it seems that the Royals front office is finally ready to convert some Major League talent into Minor League prospects.
Last week, reporter Jon Heyman published an article on Fanrag Sports ominously titled ‘Royals are open for trade business.’ Since it’s just turning from May to June with the MLB Trade Deadline set for end of July, that’s pretty significant.
The Kansas City Royals are said to be “quietly” letting other teams know they expect to have a “for sale” sign up soon. That is not to say trades are expected immediately, but Royals people appear realistic about where things stand.
They are currently vying to get out of the basement in the AL Central, by far baseball’s weakest division, and while no one can be considered buried in a division without even one winning team, they seem to have no illusions about contending this year.
The Royals’ stance seems awfully reasonable. Not only are they bad—they have been among the bottom five teams by winning percentage for weeks—but they own a truly despicable run differential, confirming that their badness is not due to luck but skill (or a lack thereof). Credit the Royals for realizing their plight and not overthinking it.
Heyman also notes something of particular interest (emphasis mine):
One person who’s spoken to Royals people suggests they could be “open to anything,” which means it won’t be just older veterans and players on the last year of their deals who will be considered for trade – though the Royals do have a lot of those.
Open to anything, eh? That might as well proclaim, ‘yeah, we’re open to trading Whit Merrifield, Danny Duffy, or Salvador Perez. Maybe all three, depending on how frisky we’re feeling.’
But fear not, Royals fans: while Duffy and Merrifield may end up traded at some point, Perez ain’t never leaving Kansas City, at least via trade.
And no, it’s not because Perez is too valuable, or that he’s not valuable enough, or that the Royals aren’t open to trading him. It’s because there is an un-crossable gulf between how Kansas City sees Perez’s value and how every other team sees his value.
Everyone can agree that Perez is a good player. His trophy case is awfully full, and he only just turned 28. Kansas City’s favorite Venezuelan catcher has won four Gold Glove awards, one Silver Slugger, and has a World Series MVP to top it off. The World Champion Perez has been to the World Series twice, played in five consecutive All-Star Games, and has received American League MVP votes.
Since 2013, the first year a healthy Perez played a full year for the Royals, only four catchers in baseball have produced more Wins Above Replacement per Fangraphs than Perez, and the list reads like a who’s who of early 2000s catchers: Buster Posey, Jonathan Lucroy, Russell Martin, and Yadier Molina.
However, Perez isn’t the greatest player to ever play the game, and he has some flaws. Everyone can agree on that, too. Among 87 catchers who have accumulated at least one full season’s worth of plate appearances (500) since 2011, Perez’s rate stats are fine, but mostly pedestrian:
- Batting Average (.271) - 10th
- On Base Percentage (.301) - 49th
- Slugging Percentage (.445) - 5th
- On Base Plus Slugging Percentage (.746) - 18th
- Isolated Power (.174) - 15th
- Walk Rate (3.6%) - 85th
Perez is a free-swinger, who has a reasonably high batting average but who runs a lower ISO than you’d think given his strength and power. That, combined with Perez’s aversion to walking and a low on base percentage, yields an overall offensive output that’s pretty much just average (almost exactly average, as his wRC+ is 99 for his career).
This is ok, though, because Perez doesn’t derive his value only from rate stats. The biggest part of Perez’s value is his reliability and consistency—backup catchers are, as a rule, not very good at all, and allowing your team to play fewer bad players is a good trait. Unfortunately, something is happening to Perez, and that thing is that his famed durability is twirling downward. Since 2014, here’s how many games Perez has played:
- 97 (projected)
This is not surprising; most catchers play fewer games as they get older, and Perez has gotten older every year.* Perez will probably play more than 97 games this year, but he’s already missed 20 due to an injury suffered before the season started, capping his max output this year at 142 even if he is healthy and plays every single game going forward, which he will most definitely not do. Any other injuries, however minor, ding that possible total further.
So from an on-field standpoint, Perez is a reliable, very good catcher, but one with flaws and a legitimate concern that injuries and age could erode his biggest skills and value quickly.
If the Royals and another team could agree on value for that, Perez could be traded. But he’s not just Salvador Perez to Kansas City. He’s Salvy, with the splash and the smile and the dorky Price Chopper commercials and the larger-than-life personality.
He’s the guy who signed an extension with the Royals after his very first season with the club, and then signed another extension that keeps him a Royal until his age-32 season. He is the emotional core of the team, who loves everybody and whom is loved by everybody. Perez is the greatest catcher in the history of the Royals organization and an integral part of making Kansas City baseball exciting again.
Where other teams see Perez, Kansas City sees Salvy. Oh, other teams will be interested in his intangibles, too. Those intangibles helped Eric Hosmer nab his giant free agent contract. But, ultimately, the Royals see Perez as a franchise cornerstone. Other teams do not see that.
Trades only work if both teams agree on the value of the players being traded. If there’s too big a gulf between perceived value, a trade won’t happen.
So fear not. Perez will stay a Royal.