Last year when I heard the Brewers had signed Zach Duke to a minor league deal with an invite to spring training I kind of scoffed. I didn't think he had a chance to make it on the Opening Day roster. Wow did I whiff on that one! I thought the very same thing (at first) when the Brewers announced they had signed former Indians *closer Chris Perez to a minor league deal with an invite to spring training. Let's hope I'm right this time.
Chris Perez reminds me a lot of former Brewers closer John Axford, who coincidentally also just signed a minor league deal with the Rockies. Both are former closers who rely heavily on their fastball which they can throw in the mid-to-high-90s (Perez is primarily fastball-slider, but Axford also has a curveball so they're not perfect comps). Both had pretty shaky command which led to undesirable walk rates, but also pretty solid strikeout rates. Both ultimately lost their roles due to high home run rates. Neither has been any good for at least 2 years.
Normally I'd not give this a second thought. I'd expect Chris Perez to close at AAA or perhaps set up for Corey Knebel if that's where he starts his season. However the Brewers have been trying to get a reliever with "closing experience." Much of that search has seemed to center on Jonathan Papelbon and Francisco Rodriguez. The latter being referred to as the fallback option. And at this point apparently the Brewers aren't currently any closer to signing either.
We are now less than 3 weeks away from pitchers and catchers reporting for spring training. Certainly K-Rod doesn't view himself as anyone's fallback option. Even if we assume that his true desire is to return to Milwaukee, he's only going to wait so long before he takes the best available offer. The Papelbon deal is clearly anything but simple and certainly not a sure thing. If that falls through, which seems to have a high probability of doing so, and K-Rod is off the market I fear Perez makes the club out of spring training. If that happens he could make as much as $3 million.
Chris Perez is coming off 2 back to back horrible seasons. He's totally fine as a minor league flier. There's absolutely no downside if he's pitching in AAA. But the Brewers should be doing everything in their power to make sure they don't need to put him on the major league roster. And to be fair, I'm sure that's what they're doing.
Statistics courtesy of Fangraphs