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The Cleveland Indians closer is rumored to be on the trading block. Could he be a fit for the Milwaukee Brewers?
Back on Oct. 3, Kyle wrote this in the day's Frosty Mug:
Meanwhile, here's a nominee for "likely future Brewer:" Indians closer Chris Perez has spent most of the season developing a rift between himself and his organization, most recently calling out former manager Manny Acta. This has me wondering if 2012 Chris Perez, like 2010 Nyjer Morgan, could see his "personality issues" disappear if he moved to a winning team.
Perez was quick to criticize the Indians organization all season long, with most of his problems seemingly with former general manager Manny Acta. He took several shots at the team and Acta throughout the season and was clearly very unhappy with the team and their direction. Of course, his issues weren't only with the team as he also had a verbal confrontation with an Athletics fan. Earlier in the 2012 season, Perez called out Indians fans for not showing up to support the team after being booed by the fans who were in attendance.
Perez has had his ups and downs, but consistently got good results since being called up by the St. Louis Cardinals in 2008. His rookie season, he pitched 41 games with a 3.46 ERA and 4.33 FIP. He also picked up seven saves as he was viewed as the Cardinals "closer of the future". He took a step back the next season, posting a 4.18 ERA in 29 games for St. Louis before being traded to the Indians for Mark DeRosa (who would have a sub-.700 OPS the rest of the season). Perez pitched 32 games for the Indians that year, with a 4.32 ERA.
Perez started 2010 as the Indians de facto closer, but succumbed the role to Kerry Wood for a shortly into the season. After Wood was nothing short of dreadful, the Indians put Perez back in the closers role--a spot he hasn't given back up. Perez quickly established himself as one of the best relievers in baseball in 2010, with a 1.71 ERA, 3.54 FIP, and 23 saves in 63 appearances. The next year was kind of a strange one for Perez. He had a fine 3.32 ERA, but took a big drop in his strikeouts. After a 9.07, 10.74, and 8.71 K/9s in his first three seasons, he dropped to just a 5.88 K/9 in 2011.
He had perhaps his best year, peripheral-wise, in 2012. His K/9 bounced back to 9.21 and his BB/9, which had always been high, dropped to 2.50. His 3.34 FIP was the best of his career, though his 3.59 ERA was his second-highest. He did not give up a run in 48 of his 61 appearances.
Perez is clearly talented. He throws a hard fastball/slider combination and, like his twitter says, has "an arm like a fu***** cannon". For a team that had as many bullpen problems as the Brewers did, the pure skill that Perez brings would certainly be a huge boon. Taking only that into account, of course Perez makes sense for the Brewers. The Indians are heavily rumored to be looking to trade Perez, so he should be available.
However, there are a couple issues that come with Perez. The first is money: Perez is going into his second year of arbitration, with two years of team control remaining. He made $4.5 million in his first go at arbitration. He will be due a good raise this year and another big raise the next season. The team control is good, the cost not so much. The Brewers do have money available next year. They won't approach a $100 million payroll again, but they currently have just $52.43 million in commitments for 2012 with nine players eligible for arbitration. The team might also earmark some money for a free agent starting pitcher or position player, though. And even if they aren't, I'm not sure they will want to be on the books for as much money as Perez might command.
The Brewers would also have to send something back in a trade. I have no idea what the Indians will be looking to receive for him. They probably would like to trade him, but they aren't going to be desperate enough that their price for him will drop significantly. Perez is worth more than a Mark DeRosa this time around. Of course, everything hinges on what the Indians want in return, but I'm not sure the Brewers should trade any significant pieces for the future for Perez.
Even if the Brewers were to attain Perez, what role would he play on the team? Would he, like Francisco Rodriguez eventually did, be willing to take a set-up role with John Axford the closer? Perez has been volatile about things like that in the past and might not be happy about a supposed "demotion". Though Axford had his struggles last season the Brewers seem set on going forward with him in the ninth-inning position. Would the Brewers end up moving Axford to a set-up role with Perez the closer? Would there be a time-share, or a competition in spring training? Options are good, but only if the players are willing to take on a different role if the team sees fit.
Then there is the issue of Perez's off-the-field tendencies. Between fan confrontations and openly criticizing his team and manager to the public, the Brewers could certainly be justified in not wanted to take a risk on Perez's personality. Then again, Nyjer Morgan has supposed personality issues and he ended up becoming a fan-favorite and a big part of the Brewers playoff-run last year. However, Perez was critical of Manny Acta due to Acta not being a very fiery or emotional manager. Ron Roenicke does not tend to show much fire, either. Would Perez and Roenicke be compatible?
With Milwaukee poised to be a potential playoff team next year, that should help with any supposed personality issues that Perez might have. He is, by all accounts, is first and foremost extremely competitive. If the Brewers are winning, he could be great for the team. However, if the team struggles at all Perez's outspoken nature could come out again.
So does Perez make sense for the Brewers? I'm not so sure he does. There is no doubt that a player of his caliber would be great for a beleaguered Milwaukee bullpen. But he also comes with a lot of question marks and will be very pricey. The free-agent market for relievers looks very strong this season. The Brewers could likely get two good relievers for what Perez could make in arbitration.
That being said, I wouldn't necessarily be opposed to the Brewers trying to acquire Perez. If they are not giving up significant pieces of the team's future he could end up being a huge part of a hopeful playoff run, like Nyjer Morgan was in 2011. I would be cautious if I were the Brewers, though.