Word came down on March 21st that the New York Mets had finally given up on Oliver Perez turning his career around and flat out released him. He had a great 2007 season, going 15-10 in a full season starting for a nifty 121 era+. Despite coming back down to earth in 2008, the Mets signed him to a 3yr/$36M contract for 2009-11. He got hurt in 2009, was grossly ineffective in 2010, and now the Mets have decided to eat his entire $12m salary just to be rid of him in 2011. He was reportedly only throwing in the mid 80s and the Mets were looking at him as a Loogy, not a starter or even a long reliever.
Two days later, Nats fans hear that he’s signed a minor league deal with Washington. Beat reporters Goessling and Zuckerman nicely summed up similar thoughts to me with respect to this move and what it may mean for the AAA rotation. But here’s some questions and answers about the move.
Q: Why didn’t the Mets try to trade him? The answer is probably along the lines of, who would want to assume $12M of salary? Perhaps if the deal was Perez plus $11M for a prospect. But Perez has looked so bad, his velocity so far below where it used to be, that the Mets probably figured no team would trade anything of value for him.
Q: Why didn’t the Mets just assign him to AAA to keep him? Perez has enough MLB service that he could refuse the assignment and become a free agent, essentially putting him in the exact same spot he is now by virtue of his unconditional release.
Q: Why would the Nats possibly want him? This is a very low risk, low cost move. Even if he makes the majors we’re not paying anything more than the MLB minimum salary for him (somewhere in the $450k range). He has already agreed to go to AAA, where he could NOT go for New York. He can go to AAA, work on his mechanics in a low-stress, low-visibility environment and try to regain what once made him a great prospect.
Q: Is the displacement of other AAA pitchers worth the risk? Assuming that Perez is treated like a starter, we’re probably now looking at this for the AAA rotation:
- Locks: Maya and Detwiler. These guys are options 1A and 1B for rising to the majors, and if it were not for option statuses or contracts of the 5 guys who ARE starting in the bigs at least Detwiler may have been up there.
- 40-man guys being given shots: Mock. For unknown reasons Mock continues to be viewed as part of the future for this team. But if he’s still being considered a starter, he will be in the AAA rotation. This list also possibly includes Stammen if the team values him more as a starter than a long-reliever. We’ll see. They seem to have him converted to a reliever at this point.
- Rising AA guys/prospects: Arneson, Tatusko, Milone: Arneson was in AAA last year but is not on the 40-man and has lived through two rule5 drafts. He didn’t pitch badly in 2010 but not flashy enough to warrant a look at the MLB level. Tatusko put up great AA numbers and deserves a shot in AAA. Milone (and to a lesser extent perhaps even Meyers or Roark) also pitched well enough in AA to be thinking about a move to AAA.
- Non 40-man Vets hanging on: Chico, Martin, Martis, Atilano. And now add Perez to this list.
So what happens? I think your AAA rotation will be Maya, Detwiler, Mock, Perez and Tatusko. Arneson gets bumped to long relief, as does Stammen, Chico, and Martis. Martin and Atilano may be out of a job. Milone, Meyers and Roark start in AA with a mindset of rising quickly to replace a promoted starter, or to replace Perez if we give up on him.
Is signing Perez worth delaying the AAA promotion of Milone? Probably not. But I agree with putting Perez into the rotation at the expense of any one of Chico, Martin, Martis or Atilano. I think these latter four guys basically need to be released to make room for the next wave of guys. If all four passed through waivers and came back to Washington, then there seems to be little chance they will be making it as professionals much longer.
Conclusions: I don’t HATE this move for the Nats. It is low cost and low risk. Lets just hope it does not retard the growth of our slew of good-looking AA pitchers.