No Extension Talks Yet Between Rangers, Martin Perez

With less than two weeks until the trade deadline, the Rangers will have to make a decision on how to proceed with Martín Pérez. Signed to a one-year deal over the offseason, the left-hander is an impending free agent on a team that currently sits 7 1/2 games out of a playoff spot. That makes him a fairly obvious trade candidate, although both the hurler and Texas general manager Chris Young have expressed interest in working out an extension.

Pérez reiterated his interest when speaking with Robert Murray of FanSided, but he indicated that talks had yet to get underway. “We haven’t talked anything about an extension,” Pérez told Murray. “I signed with Texas again. That was my home for a long time. I feel great there. But I don’t know what their plans are. … I’d like to stay. It’s the same when you go back home and you always want to stay.

As he suggested, Pérez is plenty familiar with the organization. He began his career as a Ranger, developing into one of the game’s top pitching prospects and reaching the majors for the first time in 2012. He spent six-plus seasons in Arlington before heading to Minnesota in advance of the 2019 campaign. After a year with the Twins and two seasons with the Red Sox, he returned to his original stomping grounds on a buy-low $4MM deal coming out of the lockout.

The Rangers have gotten well beyond their money’s worth on that pact. Pérez pitched his way to the All-Star Game for the first time, tossing 111 innings of 2.68 ERA ball through 18 starts. He hasn’t posted an ERA below 4.00 in any season since 2013, but he appears on his way to achieving that mark this year. That should draw him some attention from pitching-needy contenders over the next couple weeks, particularly given the underwhelming recent runs from some of the other rental arms available.

That said, it’s unlikely that rival teams will view Pérez as the middle or top of the rotation arm that sterling ERA would suggest. He owns a career-best strikeout percentage, but it’s still a couple ticks below average at 20.7%. This year’s 8.4% swinging strike rate isn’t much different than his marks of prior seasons. He’s inducing ground-balls at a greater than 51% clip, but he’s done so in years past without the same kind of run prevention success. Indeed, a minuscule 6.7% home run per fly ball rate looks to be a key catalyst for his better results. A pitcher’s home run rate tends to fluctuate, and clubs will surely be skeptical he can keep the ball in the yard at this extent.

It’s not fair to chalk Pérez’s better numbers up entirely to luck, however. He’s working with career-best control, only walking 6.6% of opponents. He’s also tweaked his repertoire, ramping up the usage of his sinker while scaling back a cutter that had been a particularly homer-prone offering last season. That change has been most dramatic against right-handed batters, who gave Pérez fits last season. After being tattooed at a .308/.368/.514 clip without the platoon advantage, he’s holding righties to a manageable .242/.302/.359 line in 2022. He’s gotten better results against lefty hitters as well, but his improvement against righties has been starker.

There aren’t many recent precedents for pitchers coming off seasons similar to the one Pérez is having. Between 2019-21, only five pitchers (minimum 100 innings) even posted an ERA under 4.00 with strikeout, walk and grounder rates in the realm of those Pérez has posted this season. Brett Anderson hit free agency after the 2019 campaign and signed a one-year, $5MM deal with the Brewers. Anderson, though, had a spottier durability track record than Pérez has had and had an even more extreme low-strikeout approach.

Wade Miley’s 2021 numbers — 3.36 ERA, 18.1% strikeout rate, 7.2% walk percentage, 49.3% ground-ball rate — are probably the closest recent parallel. Miley wasn’t a free agent last winter. He was, however, waived by the Reds and claimed by the Cubs, who promptly exercised a $10MM club option. That kind of annual salary could be a reasonable range for Pérez, but he and his representatives are likely to seek a multi-year deal. Miley’s salary came without the benefit of open market bidding, after all, and he’s playing this season at age 35. Pérez, on the other hand, won’t turn 32 until shortly before Opening Day in 2023.

Texas’ 2023 rotation outlook is largely unclear. Jon Gray will have one spot after signing a four-year deal last offseason. Dane Dunning looks like a serviceable back-of-the-rotation arm. The Rangers haven’t gotten much else beyond that duo and Pérez, with each of Taylor HearnGlenn Otto and Spencer Howard struggling mightily. The organization would love if top prospects Cole Winn and Jack Leiter proved ready for the majors early next year, but both righties are scuffling in the upper minors. For the Rangers to contend for a playoff spot next season, they’ll probably need to add at least one starter from outside the organization even if they re-sign Pérez.

Presumably, president of baseball operations Jon Daniels and Young will be in touch with the southpaw’s camp shortly. Assuming there’s truly mutual extension interest, it behooves the club to have an idea of the kind of contract that could be necessary to keep him off the free agent market before August 2. How far the gap is to be bridged in extension talks will surely play a role in the front office’s decision whether to shop him to contenders for the stretch run.



Published at Thu, 21 Jul 2022 04:42:06 +0000

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