It’s been an incredibly busy offseason for the Cleveland Indians. After trading Shin-Soo Choo and shelling out close to $70 million for free agents, the Tribe’s 2013 roster will be full of fresh faces: Nick Swisher, Mark Reynolds, Brett Myers, Trevor Bauer, Drew Stubbs, Mike Aviles, Matt Albers, and Bryan Shaw. Say what you want about the moves—personally I’ve liked almost all of them—but you can’t say that the front office hasn’t been keeping busy this winter.
However, the transaction seemingly everyone expected the Indians to make this offseason hasn’t come to fruition: trading Chris Perez. And according to Paul Hoynes in his Sunday mailbag, that’s unlikely to change.
Hey, Hoynsie: I know that Chris Perez can be a PR nightmare, but I keep hearing that the Tribe may move him and go with Vinnie Pestano as the closer. It seems to me that the one thing that was truly right about the team last year was from the eighth inning on the Tribe was as good as any team out there. As there is no record for Vinnie being a closer, does it really make sense to move Perez and create another potential weakness in the team where none exists? – Russell Gantos, Houston.
Hey, Russell: As is the case with Asdrubal Cabrera, I think the Indians would have to get a lot for Perez to trade him. They’ve already made several moves in the bullpen this winter. I don’t see them making a deal for Perez.
There’s a chance Hoynes is wrong. The Swisher sweepstakes aside, this is an organization that does its best to play things close to the chest. This isn’t an interview with a team executive, it’s just Hoynes’ opinion. That said, Hoynes is far privier to the front office than we are, and presumably his analysis is based on some knowledge of what the Indians are up to. And if Chris Antonetti is really seeking a package comparable to the one the Tribe got for Shin-Soo Choo (as Hoynes alludes to by trying Perez to Cabrera), that should raise a red flag.
I’m not saying trading Perez is a slam dunk. Last week, Steve laid out a convincing case for why the details of dealing Perez are more complicated than many fans seem to realize. Moreover, the Indians have been involved in multiple transactions with relief pitchers this winter (as both buyers and sellers) so they’re presumably on top of what the market for late-inning arms is like—it’s a lot easier to make trades from behind a computer screen than in a front office. But if the team is holding out for an offer like what they got for Choo, we’re going to be waiting a very long time.
Let’s look at what the Indians have in Perez. He’s a relief pitcher with two more years of team control left. MLB Trade Rumors projects him to earn $7.2 million in 2013, and that could push close to $10 million in 2013—that’s a lot of money for a small-market team to pay for about 120 innings of relief pitching. His contract certainly isn’t an albatross, but it’s not as though he has much surplus value even before you take into account his distracting personality.
Given that the Indians have a tremendous amount of bullpen depth and a seemingly capable in-house replacement in Vinnie Pestano, it doesn’t make sense for them to wait to be blown away. There’s no way we get someone like Trevor Bauer for Perez (though in fairness I would have said that about Choo too), but we might be able to snag a Mike Aviles or a Drew Stubbs. And it would be a shame if we miss out on a chance to get a metaphorical base hit because we’re too busy swinging for the fences.
Simply put, Chris Perez isn’t as valuable to Cleveland as he might be to some other team, so it makes sense to be open-minded about potential deals; it would take far less than a Trevor Bauer to make trading him worth the Tribe’s while. If Hoynes is correct in assessing the Indians’ demands they might be better off rethinking their strategy.