Chris Perez was not happy with the Cleveland Indians organization in 2012. He lambasted the fans for their poor attendance, took aim at the front office for its lack of spending, and lobbed a final insult to outgoing manager Manny Acta after his dismissal.
The mood surrounding the Tribe has already improved greatly after the team hired Terry Francona, who has longed been known to be a players manager. With Francona at the helm it is a near certainty that Chris Perez will have a better outlet to voice his displeasure then with the post-game media, and any verbal altercations with fans in other cities will not be tolerated. It should be noted that I do not place all the blame on Perez for his actions, as I do believe a manager needs to control his clubhouse and provide an environment for players to vent their frustrations. That’s something that, unlike Acta, Francona will be able to cultivate.
But even with Perez on his best behavior, the Indians should work to trade him and they should not wait very long into the offseason to do it. Coming off a season where he saved 39 games, had a strikeout rate of 24 percent, a walk rate of only 6.6%, and a .217 batting average against, his trade value should be at its peak.
Perez is still two years away from hitting the open market, but his Super Two status and his role as an established closer has pushed his salary to an expected $7.2 million for 2013. This salary makes him an expensive luxury for a club whose strength is in younger, less expensive bullpen arms and where getting to the where inning with a lead (as opposed to protecting it while there) is where money should be spent.
Might he be an option for the New York Yankees?
The Yankees are expecting their current closer Rafael Soriano, who is a Scott Boras client, to opt out of a guaranteed $14 million 2013 option in order to hit the open market and land a multi-year deal. Meanwhile, they might not be getting Mariano Rivera—New York GM Brian Cashman has said that he recently spoke to him and that Rivera isn’t certain as to what his plans are regarding the 2013 season.
The post-George Steinbrenner Yankees are not the same fiscally irresponsible team of years past and President Randy Levine has made it clear that the team is going to get under the $189 million luxury tax threshold by the 2014 season. The Yankees are very unlikely to commit to a large multiyear extension to a closer like Soriano, and they certainly will not pressure Rivera for an answer about his plans for 2013. Yet Yankees definitely will not rely solely on in-house options like David Robertson, David Aardsma, or Joba Chamberlain to fill the ninth-inning vacancy.
It has been said by many baseball executives is that a trade should be made not to get the better of the other team, but to help make both teams better. A trade of Chris Perez to the Yankees could go a long way to acquiring talent and freeing up resources on both sides of the ledger. In Perez, the Yankees would get an established closer with a New York-sized personality at an arbitration discount. In exchange for Perez the Indians, should ask for—and could probably get—David Phelps and Melky Mesa.
Phelps, 26, made 33 appearances this year (including 11 starts), in which he compiled a record of 2-2 with an ERA of 3.77. In his minor-league career, the right-hander made 90 and went 40-15 with an ERA of 2.51, a strikeout rate of 7.6 K/9, and a walk rate of 2.7 BB/9. Phelps would immediately compete for a spot in the Indians’ starting rotation, and if he didn’t win a spot the they would have the choice of putting him in the bullpen or sending him to Triple-A Columbus and allow him to continue to start until he’s needed.
Melky Mesa, who will be 26 in January, is a right-handed hitting outfielder who spent the 2012 season between Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Scranton Wilkes-Barre. He hit .264/.325/.480 with 23 HR, 26 doubles, two triples, and 22 stolen bases (in 26 attempts) in 504 plate appearances split between the two levels. With the Tribe he would have an opportunity to compete for the starting left field job and could be a capable fourth outfielder.
In this proposal, Cleveland would be acquiring two cost-controlled players who have options remaining but whose MLB careers have not been defined. Phelps may end up being a back-of-the-rotation starter, and Mesa possesses a tremendous blend of power and speed. Although neither Phelps or Mesa will be found on a top prospect list, each has upside and the Indians would be adding talent to their system including and freeing up about $7 million in salary that can be reapportioned to other parts of the roster. Meanwhile, the Yankees would get an All-Star closer who’s under team control for two more seasons at a relatively low cost and could allow Mariano Rivera to take his time when making his decision while settling the makeup of their 2013 bullpen.
Hopefully, Brian Cashman and Chris Antonetti have already started talking about Chris Perez. If can put a deal in place early in the offseason, both teams will benefit from being able to time and resources to shore up the other areas of their respective rosters.