In the summer of 2008, Roberto Perez‘s professional baseball career began when he was selected in the 33rd round of the June amateur draft by the Cleveland Indians. The odds are generally stacked against a player when taken that late in the annual selection process.
On Sunday, the Indians formally announced that it had signed its backup catcher, the 1,011th player taken in his draft class, to a four-year contract with a pair of club options that could keep the backstop in a Cleveland uniform through the 2022 season.
The deal buys out his arbitration years, a business practice that the Indians have been using heavily dating back to the early 1990s. Perez would have been eligible for arbitration for the first time following this season. According to sources reporting to Cleveland.com, the contract will pay Perez at least $9 million over the life of the deal. He would make a steadily escalating salary after playing on this season’s $550,000 deal. He will reportedly make $1.5 million in 2018, $2.5 million in 2019, and $3.5 million in 2020. Option years for $5.5 million in 2021 and $7 million for 2022 are also included in the deal, with a buyout price of $450,000 in either of those two seasons.
Perez is the second Indians player this week to come to a contract extension with the club. Jose Ramirez signed a deal that could reach $50 million and could keep him with the team through 2023. Outfielder Brandon Guyer also inked an extension with the Indians in January.
The Tribe currently has ten players on its 25-man roster playing on long-term deals, also including Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, Michael Brantley, Jason Kipnis, Carlos Santana, and Josh Tomlin.
The value of Perez on the roster was seen clearly last season, when the Indians had to deal with at first a slumping Yan Gomes and then a sidelined one when he went down with a separated shoulder just after the All-Star break. He would also suffer a setback while rehabbing when he was hit by a pitch in a Double-A playoff game.
Perez himself was on the shelf for a good portion of the first half of last season after suffering a broken thumb on April 30 in an interleague game in Philadelphia against the Phillies. He would return a bit prematurely due to the timing of Gomes’ separated shoulder and struggled some at the plate, but found himself a bit in the final month of the season. He ended the year with 61 games played, slashing .183/.285/.294 with six doubles, one triple, three home runs, and 17 RBI.
He was also heavily used throughout the postseason, starting all 15 games of the playoffs behind the plate for the Tribe while hitting .186 with a .300 on-base percentage while hitting three homers and driving in seven runs.
It was believed that Gomes and Perez would be splitting much of the work load behind the plate this coming season. Perez has worked in 160 games since debuting in the 2014 season and has supplied a .220/.318/.355 slash line at the plate with 20 doubles, two triples, eleven homers, and 42 RBI while also drawing 61 walks in that span.
The Indians now have a pair of catchers locked up long term. Gomes is playing on a deal that will keep him with the club through at least the completion of the 2019 season (the team also holds club options with him for both the 2020 and 2021 seasons). Additionally, one of the club’s top prospects, catcher Francisco Mejia, will start his first season at the Double-A level with the RubberDucks when play begins this month in Akron.
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