Boston Signs Peraza, Pérez With Moves Ahead

The Red Sox signed a pair of former top prospects to modest deals at the end of last week: José Peraza, 25, to a one-year deal worth $3 million; and Martín Pérez, 28, to a one year, $6 million deal with a club option for a second year and $6.25 million. Those moves appear targeted to replace the already-departed Brock Holt and the perhaps-soon-be-departed David Price, respectively, on the roster at a significant savings in cost. (Price is signed for $96 million over the next three seasons, and the Red Sox are apparently bound and determined to stay under the $208 million luxury tax threshold next year.)

The Peraza signing is the easiest to evaluate fully now, without the benefit of a full offseason’s worth of moves to put it in context. Holt, who has yet to sign with a team this offseason but now seems unlikely to return to Boston, played seven positions for the Red Sox last year and put up a perfectly respectable 103 wRC+ while doing so. Peraza only played six positions in 2019 — and one of them involved two stunt appearances on the mound — but he’s six years younger, quite likely cheaper, and there’s still hope that he’ll look more like the hitter who posted a .331 wOBA with the Reds back in 2016 than the guy who posted a .272 last season.

If Peraza can bounce back at the plate, the Red Sox can retain his services through arbitration (and at relatively low cost) all the way through the 2022 season. If he can’t, the Sox can non-tender him next season (or sooner) and all it’ll cost them is $3 million. I have my doubts that’ll happen, though. Peraza’s seen ever-fewer pitches inside the zone each year since 2017, as pitchers learn they don’t need to challenge him to get him out, and he was absolutely awful against the slider last year in a way that doesn’t leave me confident he’s due for a bounce back. Still, stranger things have happened, and Holt wasn’t going to be a Boston lifer.

It’s the Pérez move that’s harder to assess without assuming the Sox are dead-set on trading David Price this winter. With Pérez in the fold, the Boston rotation includes four lefties: Pérez, Price, Chris Sale, and Eduardo Rodríguez. That seems unlikely to last, and I suspect Pérez will slot in after Rodríguez, Nathan Eovaldi, and some as-yet-unidentified righty to shore up the back of the rotation once all is said and done this winter.

He’s likely to do a reasonably good job of it, too. Pérez was pretty awful for the Rangers in 2018, and better but still not great for the Twins last year, but he found a cutter at 88 last year that brought with it a fairly marked improvement overall, especially in the early part of the season (Jay Jaffe rated him the second-most improved pitcher in baseball back in August) and makes me optimistic that his 2020 will look more like his career norms (4.48 FIP) than his last two seasons (5.72 FIP and 4.66 FIP, in order). He’ll need to keep adjusting, of course — Dan Szymborski noted in August that the cutter was beginning to wear out its welcome, and Pérez’s second half was fairly terrible overall — but I’ll take the over on that happening.

So now we wait and see if the Red Sox actually trade David Price, a man who still retains substantial trade value despite a down year in 2019, and whose departure from the roster would probably save Boston from a big luxury tax hit. To put my cards on the table: I think trading Price is quite possibly justifiable in a pure baseball sense — ZiPS projects him for only six wins over the next three years — but that luxury tax considerations shouldn’t come into the picture whatsoever. These teams are all fabulously wealthy. They should pay what they need to to put the best possible team on the field. That’s what I think. But what do I know? Frankly, what kid wouldn’t want to watch the Red Sox bring their numbers into line next year? The fresh mouse clicks, the crisp spreadsheets, the clean deposit slips at the bank …  all the sounds of a modern baseball winter. With those in hand, who needs David Price?

Rian Watt is a contributor to FanGraphs based in Seattle. His work has appeared at Vice, Baseball Prospectus, The Athletic, FiveThirtyEight, and some other places too. By day, he works with communities around the world to end homelessness.

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Love the snarky walk-off. Maybe they’re aiming for the kids who like to count and re-count the money in their piggy banks.