The tale of Salvador Perez and his bargain-basement deal

MLB columnist
Yahoo Sports

Kansas City Royals catcher Salvador Perez is the best bargain in the big leagues, his five-year, $7 million contract with three club options running through 2019. And like Evan Longoria, Troy Tulowitzki and Ryan Braun, all standard bearers who signed young, Perez is hoping to renegotiate his deal in the near future.

“I want to stay here,” Perez told Yahoo Sports. “I want to spend my career here. That’s the team that gave me an opportunity when I was 16 years old. …

“I don’t like to think about that [contract]. But in the back of my head, I start to think about it. Hopefully, they can do something different to me.”

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Salvador Perez is perhaps the best value in baseball. (Getty)
Salvador Perez is perhaps the best value in baseball. (Getty)

The 25-year-old Perez, the leading vote-getter in American League All-Star balloting, is on the cusp of his third All-Star Game and has won back-to-back Gold Gloves. Among players 25 and younger, he has the seventh-most Wins Above Replacement, behind Mike Trout, Giancarlo Stanton, Jason Heyward, Andrelton Simmons, Bryce Harper and Freddie Freeman – three of whom have nine-figure contracts, with Heyward likely to add another this offseason.

Perez’s deal, negotiated by his former agent, Gustavo Vazquez, could cost Perez tens of millions of dollars if the Royals take a hardline stance. If the team exercises the three club options, Perez would receive a total of $21.75 million, with the possibility of increases up to $5 million for All-Star games and Gold Gloves.

Still, it pales compared to what his contemporaries in age and position make. Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina, perhaps the most comparable player to Perez in skill set, signed a five-year, $75 million extension in 2012.

Royals general manager Dayton Moore was not available for comment, but a club source indicated Kansas City plans to talk with Perez in the near future about a new deal. Moore faces a number of difficult contract decisions in the coming years that complicate the job he’s done building Kansas City into a contender. First baseman Eric Hosmer, center fielder Lorenzo Cain, shortstop Alcides Escobar and third baseman Mike Moustakas all are eligible for free agency following the 2017 season, making Perez’s cheap deal all the more valuable for the sake of financial flexibility.

Longoria, Tulowitzki and Braun all renegotiated nine-figure extensions that were either built into or replaced their original deals. While Perez’s offensive numbers lag behind theirs, the Royals consider him an integral piece of the franchise. One team source admitted the franchise “felt a little bad” signing Perez to such a cut-rate contract less than two months after his big league debut.

“When I signed my contract, I was 100 percent sure I wanted to sign it,” Perez said. “I didn’t want to feel like, ‘Why am I doing that?’ But I didn’t know what kind of player I was going to be like. I hope Kansas City sees what kind of person I am, what kind of player I am, and maybe think about signing me again.”

Perez talks about the subject sheepishly. He doesn’t want to sound ungrateful for the opportunity and privilege to play in the major leagues, especially in a place undergoing a baseball renaissance. But he also doesn’t want to be grossly underpaid for what he feels like was a mistake borne of his ignorance to the game’s business. Perez grew up poor in Venezuela, and the prospect of any guaranteed money appealed to him.

Salvador Perez 2015 Spray Chart | PointAfter

“I had nothing,” Perez said. “That’s the problem, you know? Where I’m coming from, they’re talking about a million dollars. And I don’t got nobody in that moment to explain to me how it’s going to be or how high it could be. I don’t know what arbitration is. I don’t know free agency. After I signed the deal, I heard from a lot of players, ‘Why you doing that? You don’t know what kind of player you are.’ ”

The answer: One of the best at his position. The 150 games Perez played last season were the fifth most by a catcher in the last decade. Royals manager Ned Yost struggles to find days to sit him down. And after an incident earlier this week in which Perez caught a foul tip off his mask that dizzied him and kept him out for a day, it reinforced his hope that the Royals will reward him as much as he has them.

“This is my career,” Perez said. “This is my life. I have to take care of my family. And I play hard for that. I like to play every day. Sitting on the bench and watching the game – I hate not being able to do something to help win. That’s why I like to play. Play hard, do the best I can do to win the game. …

“I think they’re going to do something for me.”

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