COMMENTARY | The names of a few Texas Rangers players have been bantered around in trade talks in the weeks since the season ended -- Ian Kinsler, Elvis Andrus, Mitch Moreland, and Jurickson Profar, just to name a few.
Through all the Winter Meetings, Hot Stove League action, and offseason transactions that will take place in the next few months, there is one deal that the Rangers should not make under any circumstance. They should not trade left-handed starting pitcher Martin Perez.
The outlook for the Venezuelan-born Perez is extremely bright. He struggled as a 21-year-old rookie in 2012 with the Rangers, but rebounded to have a breakout season in 2013 with a 3.62 ERA and a 10-6 record in 20 starts. Perez, who turns 23 in April, is finally on his way to becoming the pitcher the Rangers hoped he would be when they signed him as an amateur free agent in 2007 at age 16.
The Rangers rewarded Perez by locking him up through his arbitration years with a four-year contract worth $12.5 million (with three team option years at the end), which is a relative bargain for a starting pitcher of Perez's caliber and potential. He has the stuff to become a No. 1 starter. It will be interesting to see if that happens with the Rangers in the next four years, since AL Cy Young runner-up Yu Darvish will also be with the team for that same period.
Perez's new four-year contract, which was handed out at a time when general manager Jon Daniels has expressed his reluctance to give multi-year contracts to pitchers, is proof that the Rangers have no intention of trading him. But that will certainly not stop teams from asking for him and dangling players who can fill openings the Rangers have, making it tempting for the Rangers to give him up. Plenty of teams would love to have a left-hander who can pitch like Perez at the salary the Rangers are paying him for four years.
If the Rangers are going to return to the World Series, strong starting pitching will be critical. Right now, they have four-fifths of the rotation set for 2014 with Darvish, Derek Holland, Matt Harrison (if he's healthy), and Perez. Two of those four, Perez and Holland, are home grown. Darvish, Holland, and Harrison have shown they can be dominant, though some more consistently than others. The pieces are in place for the Rangers to make a run at a title, and Perez is going to be a big part of that. As the old cliche goes, you can never have enough pitching.
The Rangers have traded away too many homegrown prospects in recent years only to see them break out with other teams and in some cases become superstars. Chris Davis is the most obvious recent example. Travis Hafner and John Danks also come to mind. It would be painful to see that happen with Martin Perez. Even if they get a major league-caliber player or players in return, they would still be giving up on one of the most promising young starting pitchers in the game today.
If Perez turns into a dominant superstar in the next four years, he'll command the moon when he finally hits the free agent market. But, for now, the Rangers have him cheap, and they need to keep him. They cannot afford to let him become a star for another team after all the years they spent developing him.
Brian Honea is a Dallas, Texas-based freelance writer who is a lifelong Texas Rangers follower.
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