The Cleveland Indians have made a number of surprising moves this offseason, but with just a few weeks before pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training, they still have yet to pull the trigger on a deal that almost everyone expected them to make: trading Chris Perez. So in this edition of the Weekly Wroundtable, we asked our panelists (featuring Indians Baseball Insider‘s Charlie Adams): Should the Indians trade Chris Perez?
Charlie Adams (Indians Prospect Insider): Chris Perez is a good relief pitcher who had a better season in 2012 than he ever had in 2009-11 (despite having an ERA of “just” 3.49). He posted a career best 3.69 K/BB ratio, he induced more GB (40%) than ever before and saved 39 games for a 68-win ballclub. He was worth 0.8 wins above replacement. He will be paid $7.3 million in 2013 which is more than Vinnie Pestano, Bryan Shaw, Matt Albers, Cody Allen and Joe Smith combined. All five pitchers are quality right-handed options for an organization that is already flush with right-handed relief options and that is also about a year or two away from entering a window of contention.
Regardless of their record (literally, even if they are in 1st place by 10 games), the Indians should trade Chris Perez to a team in need of help and, in doing so, save themselves $3 million this year, $10 million next year, receive a quality asset in return and be little worse off than they started thanks to a deep MLB bullpen and even deeper farm system (Haley, Salazar, Armstrong, Price, Stowell, and others). Giving up Perez costs you less than half a win over the course of a season, let alone ~80 games and teams always overpay for proven closers at the deadline. No brainer.
Brian Heise: I’m torn on this subject. While I don’t think Perez’s value has anywhere to go but down, it is tempting to at least ride out the first half of 2013 with him and see what happens. With Perez our bullpen, especially the back end, is a force to reckon with. But, I have to be honest with myself. Because I think there’s a greater chance for disaster and Perez’s value plummeting if we hold on to him I say trade him now.
As I have expressed previously, this team still has holes to fill for 2013 and beyond. Trading Perez when his value is clearly high is the smart thing to do because the rewards could be more valuable than what he potentially give us. Plus, with Pestano and Smith the back end of the bullpen is a position of strength that can afford to be weakened by a potential Perez trade if it means addressing another weakness. I don’t think a World Series championship is in play this year, so I say trade him.
Jeff Mount: Yes. As it stands now I count ten relievers on the 40-man roster with major league experience, plus several others who have paid their dues at Columbus. No sense in building up this depth if you don’t leverage it to strengthen the team. I may be inclined to wait until May when other teams realize their bullpens suck and catch someone in a panic move who will be willing to overpay. Failing that, a solid backup catcher and a decent prospect would be a fair return, then use the payroll savings to sign another free agent.
Jason Leonard: At this point I think it’s in the team’s best interest to hold onto Perez unless they are given a very compelling reason to part with him. If they could have received major league talent for him, they probably would have pulled the trigger already. Last year Perez questioned the front office’s/ownership’s commitment to fielding a competitive team, and then after Acta was let go he criticized his managerial approach. Some felt he was trying to ruffle feathers just to get traded. But the personality shouldn’t be much of a factor this year. With Francona aboard, and in light of the moves this offseason, he probably won’t get all riled up. Even if he does, I don’t think anyone will take him seriously.
Ed Carroll: I’ve written at length on this subject, but once again, now that we know how much Perez will make, he should absolutely be jettisoned now before his contract hinders this team during the season (admittedly, only for a year, but still). Look, Perez may be worth $7.3 million in value, but it’s a heavy long shot for him to do so (as Lewie said Perez would actually have to be better than he was in 2012). I like the guy, love rooting for him, but the Indians have to use their heads here, not their hearts. He ain’t worth it.
Lewie Pollis: As I’ve written earlier, the answer to the Perez question depends on one’s opinion of whether he is worth the $7.3 million he’ll earn in 2013. If you think he’s worth more than that, keep him unless you’re blown away by an offer. If you think he’s worth about that, trade him if the return improves the team. And if you think the Indians could better use that $7.3 million elsewhere, you should be theoretically willing to deal him for just about anyone.
Given the Tribe’s great bullpen depth and Vinnie Pestano’s proven ability to protect late-inning leads, I’d say the answer lies somewhere between the latter two options. The fact that Perez is still with Cleveland says something about his current trade value, but I’d be very surprised if the Indians really couldn’t finagle a deal that would help the team. So I wouldn’t sell him for 50 cents on the dollar, but I wouldn’t get too attached.