When Chris Perez signed a 1 year, 2.3 million dollar deal this past winter, the deal seemed simple in what it was about: Try to buy low on a former closer who put up good to great ERA’s from 2010-2012 but struggled last year after posting a 4.33 ERA in 2013. It was the typical low risk, high reward type of signing that the Dodgers believed they could benefit from as Perez would go through a change of scenery and some time with the talented pitching coaches. The Dodgers started out the year with the bullpen believed to be an incredible strength, stacked with 4 former everyday closers including Chris Perez. However, not everything has gone as planned (as often does in baseball) and the bullpen has become a glaring weakness with Chris Perez in the middle of this weakness. It is clear now, more then halfway through the year, that Perez is not a valuable commodity to the bullpen and should be replaced immediately.
Chris Perez in 2014 has a 4.37 ERA in 35.0 Innings Pitched. Going more into the numbers, you see that their isn’t anything to suggest he will improve on these numbers. His FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) which is an advanced statistic used to analyze only the things that a pitcher can control, is 5.06. His ERA and FIP being this high shows us just how much he has struggled this year and been a dark spot in a struggling Dodgers’ bullpen. Out of all relievers with at least 30 IP, Chris Perez is the 7th worst in terms of FIP and is the 25th worst in terms of ERA. What is really concerning is how similar or worse his numbers are to his career worst 2013 season. In 2013, Perez had a 4.33 ERA which is just slightly below his 4.37 ERA this year and had a 5.08FIP which is just slightly higher then his 2014 5.06 FIP. His K/9 has gone from 9.00 to 7.46 meanwhile his BB/9 has risen from 3.50 to 3.86. All these numbers show that although it was worth a small risk to see if Chris Perez was more like his 2010-2012 years, it is evident that he is pitching in 2014 like he did in 2013 and is not to be counted on to provide valuable innings out of the bullpen. Also, what is different from Perez compared to other pitchers in the bullpen is that he can’t go longer innings like Paul Maholm or Jamey Wright, and although Brian Wilson is struggling as well, the contract given to Chris Perez makes it much easier to just get rid of him without too much concern about salary. It might be more understandable if the Dodgers didn’t have great relief depth but the Dodgers Triple A team has Paco Rodriguez, Pedro Baez, Yimi Garcia and Jose Dominguez who have enough talent to believe they could perform at least as bad as Perez, with great upside to believe they could perform better.
WHAT ARE THE OPTIONS?
When you have a “low risk, high reward” type of signing, what people don’t realize a lot of times is that the low risk portion might be stronger then they believe. The risk in this Chris Perez signing is now getting stronger due to opportunity cost; although Chris Perez did not cost a lot in terms of salary, he is costing a lot in what the Dodgers lose in not being able to use the next best option. In other words, Chris Perez is not just hurting the team by pitching poorly, but also by blocking a pitcher that would create more value at a non-expensive price. The Dodgers basically have 3 options in regards to Chris Perez:
1) Designate Chris Perez for assignment soon. This option essentially says that the team believes Paco Rodriguez (if not Jose Dominguez, Pedro Baez, or any other reliever they deem MLB ready) would be a more valuable reliever then Perez, and that they believe they still have enough depth in Triple A in case of an injury. This could happen when Josh Beckett comes off the Designated List on Tuesday, which is presumed to be accompanied with Paco Rodriguez being optioned back to Triple A. This is, to me, the best option going forward as it makes the Dodgers better now meanwhile not stopping them from trading for another reliever, as doing so could just be followed by optioning a reliever back to Triple A
2) Keep Chris Perez until you trade for a reliever and then DFA him if all other relievers are healthy. This option seems as the most likely to me. Once Beckett comes back, it is likely that Paco Rodriguez will be optioned to Triple A. Following this, none of the remaining relievers in the bullpen could be realistically optioned to Triple A in the case of another reliever being added to the bullpen and it does look like the Dodgers are very interested in adding a strong piece to the bullpen. They have been rumored to be looking to add bullpen help in any way and in this scenario, Chris Perez would be the least valuable reliever in the bullpen and most likely to be designated for assignment (assuming the rest of the bullpen is healthy).
3) Keep Chris Perez for the rest of the year and hope he can turn it around. This scenario is the least beneficial to the Dodgers. The Dodgers could just keep him around, or have him there due to others being injured, and just hope he goes on a hot streak of some sort. Brian Wilson has seen a small resurgence and we’ve seen erratic relievers go on streaks of being great for a couple months (See: Brandon League). Again, this is wishful thinking and problematic in how it blocks valuable bullpen options in helping the MLB team but could realistically come true.
The Dodgers bullpen is one of the spots that could use upgrading, even without needing to go for a huge trade. A simple upgrading from Paco Rodriguez to Chris Perez could go a long way in giving valuable options for Don Mattingly down the stretch. Hopefully it is solved sooner rather then later and we don’t have to see Chris Perez attempt to close out a playoff game.