After being a punch line with the New York Mets from 2009 to 2010—and even spending the entire 2011 season at Double-A for the Washington Nationals—Oliver Perez has completely reinvented himself as a serviceable relief pitcher. Over the past two seasons with the Seattle Mariners, the left-hander has combined for a 3.16 ERA (versus a park-adjusted 119 ERA+), 1.36 WHIP and 2.72 strikeouts-to-walks ratio over 82.2 innings.
Yet, when you look at the remaining left-handed reliever free agents, Perez’s name is still somehow there.
Oddly enough, the 32-year-old isn't just a left-handed specialist, either. In 2012, Perez actually fared better against right-handed hitters than he did against southpaws.
And while Perez’s success against left-handed hitters improved in 2013 (a .238 batting average against), he also didn’t become too vulnerable versus righties (a .255 batting average against).
So if Perez has been an effective source of outs since 2012, could his free-agent status be due to another factor—like a dry market for southpaw relievers?
By comparison, below are the other left-handed relievers who have already been inked this offseason.
On the contrary, the 2014 offseason has actually been a buyer’s market for left-handed relievers. Teams have invested over $65 million combined, while handing out six multi-year contracts.
In fact, the 2014 offseason has by far been the most lucrative for left-handed relievers over the past four offseasons.
Total $ (MM)
(Note: left-handed closers are not included in above chart).
Considering the identical production between Perez and Boone Logan, the highest-grossing free-agent left-handed reliever this offseason, the lack of interest in Perez is befuddling. At an average of $5.5 million per season, the Colorado Rockies will receive the same type of production from Logan as whoever signs Perez.
There also haven’t been substantial rumors linking Perez to any teams. The Washington Post’s Adam Kilgore speculated back in November about the Nationals' interest in acquiring a left-handed reliever—and mentioned Perez as a fit. But despite the Washington Post’s James Wagner rehashing Kilgore’s report this past week, the Nationals have seemingly addressed their southpaw void by acquiring stud lefty Jerry Blevins from the Oakland Athletics on Dec. 11.
Like most baseball mysteries, perhaps there are simply some factors that have not been made public. Maybe Perez and his agent Mike Fischlin (of the Scott Boras Corp.) are well aware of the statistical comparisons and have been unsuccessfully holding out for a Logan-esque contract. Or it’s possible Perez, who was a starting pitcher up until 2010, prefers to start and is stubbornly waiting until a team offers him a big league contract as such.
Whatever the actual reason may be, assuming Perez signs a major league contract as a reliever, his new organization will undoubtedly be receiving his services at a far discounted price.