It’s early in the MLB off season, but it’s never too early to discuss potential moves the Royals could make to improve their team, both for 2020 and moving forward. With that in mind, I plan on exploring some potential bargain-bin free agent options that could potentially be had by the Royals, either as left-overs nearing Spring Training, or as low-cost, multi-year pacts with little risk.
Martin Perez’s resume may sound vaguely familiar to you. He’s a hard-throwing lefty who has primarily been a starter, but spent some time in the pen. He’s shown flashes of dominance, but has never really put together a full season of good work. He’s had some health struggles, never eclipsing 200 innings in a single season (though he has out-paced Duffy by about 60 innings each season since 2015). That’s about where the similarities between Perez and Duffy end.
There are major differences that can be seen when they are on the field. Martin Perez has never had the strike-out stuff that Duffy does, In his most recent season with the Twins, he averaged 7.35 K/9 to Duffy’s 7.92 K/9. Over a longer sample, we see that Duffy strikes out on average about two batters per 9 than Perez, but more weight should be given to the most recent results.
The Twins declined Perez’s option ($7.5 million) earlier this week, allowing Perez to enter free agency again. I think the Royals are good suitors for Perez, and could see them taking multiple approaches with him.
The first option is the least-risky, and has the potential to pay off further down the line. Offering him a 1-year deal to see if he can gain any value as a trade asset at the deadline next season. Given the Twins declined his $7.5 million option, it’s easy to imagine him being had on as little as a minor-league deal with an invite to Spring Training. However, a lefty who throws heat like he does it unlikely to be had on such a small deal, and something in the $2 or $3 million range might be necessary to “outbid” any competition.
The second option, and the one I would like to see the Royals take on Perez and several other free agents, is a longer term deal at an affordable rate. Martin Perez made $3.5 million last year, and could likely be had for a multi-year pact on the cheap. Something along the lines of 3 years/$10.5 million with a GMDM special (mutual option) at the end with another million for a buy-out would likely get it done.
I know many will ask, “Why would you want to spend that much money on a guy who isn’t that good of a pitcher?” And my answer is three-fold. First, he’s only 28 (29 next season), meaning he still has some prime years (however good those may be) remaining.
Secondly, in 2016, 2017 and 2019 he eclipsed 160 innings, something Duffy has only done once in his career, so when healthy, he does tend to eat innings. This is particularly important to the Royals who going into next season have very few answers to the question “Who is going to eat innings?” Junis threw 175.1 innings last season, Keller threw 165.1 before being shut down for the season.
Which brings me to my third reason, which is simply that the Royals need pitching depth. After Junis and Keller, the pitcher who threw the third most innings for the Royals last year was Glenn Sparkman at 136. Martin Perez should be an upgrade over Sparkman, and is a guy who there shouldn’t be too much competition for and who would likely be extremely happy to be given a multi-year deal, even if it is on the cheap (he previously signed a 4 year/$12.5 million deal with the Rangers in the 2012/2013 offseason).
This isn’t a “sexy” signing. But the Royals don’t need “sexy” right now, they need depth, innings and, if possible, potential. Martin Perez provides all of this. The deal I have outlined is almost exactly half of what the Royals gave Jeremy Guthrie back in 2013, and Martin Perez seems likely to provide value similar to, if not exceeding Guthrie’s (though perhaps not throwing quite so many innings). If he somehow improves, then a trade can easily be made given the low salary I’ve suggested. If he remains the same guy, he’s still an upgrade over several of the current options and takes some of the pressure off of the minor league crop coming up. At worst, you end up eating $3 million or so a year until he’s off your books, and that should hardly be enough to severly limit the Royals options in 2021 and beyond.
What do you think? Am I crazy for wanting to sign a mediocre-at-best, bad-at-worst pitcher to such a long deal?