Catcher Salvador Perez has been an integral part of the Kansas City Royals lineup on a team-friendly deal since the 2012 campaign. Tuesday, the club announced it has rewarded him for his efforts with a new contract.
This doesn’t come as much surprise, considering Heyman reported earlier in the offseason that the Royals were "quietly trying to rework/extend" the three-time All-Star's deal.
Perez signed a five-year contract with the Royals worth $7 million before the 2012 campaign. Per Baseball-Reference.com, the deal also included club options worth a combined $14.75 million that could have kept him in Kansas City for three additional seasons.
It was something of a risky move at the time for the front office because Perez was only 21 years old and coming off a mere 39 games played in his rookie season. He did hit .331 in that small sample size in 2011, and Kansas City made a long-term commitment to the prospect.
It certainly worked out well for the Royals, as Perez has developed into an offensive force and one of the best defensive catchers in all of baseball with three Gold Gloves to his name. Perez hit .260 with a career-best 21 home runs and 70 RBI in 2015, although his 2.2 WAR was his lowest mark since his rookie season.
The dip in WAR can be partially explained by a .280 on-base percentage, which was only .020 points ahead of his batting average because of a mere 13 walks in 142 games. However, he was a postseason hero for the World Series champions and belted four home runs in the playoffs. He also hit .364 against the New York Mets in the Fall Classic.
In fact, Perez was named the World Series MVP for his efforts and drove home the tying run in the ninth inning of Kansas City’s title-clinching win.
Royals general manager Dayton Moore discussed the possibility of reworking Perez’s contract in the aftermath, per Jeffrey Flanagan of MLB.com:
That's a decision we'd have to discuss as an organization. I don't know when the right time is to do that. I don't know if there have been examples of [restructuring long-term deals]. But if a player doesn't perform, the club is usually often wishing it didn't [do a long-term deal].
But you know, we love Salvy. He's family. We'll see.
Even with the drop-off in WAR in 2015, Perez is still one of the best backstops in the league. According to MLB.com, he was fifth among all catchers in batting average, third in home runs and fifth in RBI. Perhaps more importantly, FanGraphs noted Perez is responsible for 34 total defensive runs saved above average since 2011.
FanGraphs also rated Perez as the second-best defensive catcher in all of baseball from 2013 to 2015.
Catchers are involved in virtually every play on the diamond, and Perez’s fielding ability stands out even more than his traditional offensive power metrics. He will also only be 26 years old during the majority of the 2016 campaign and theoretically has a handful of productive years remaining in his prime.
The postseason production was an indication that he can perform at a championship level in the most important moments, and the Royals would probably gladly pay more money on Perez's contract if he helps bring home another World Series title.