Thursday, January 31, 2019

Contemplating Martin Perez

The Twins on Wednesday made the signing of free-agent lefty starter Martin Perez official. Right-hander Chase DeJong was designated for assignment.

If the purpose of waiting more than a week after news of the Perez agreement broke was to give me time to rationalize his addition and mute my displeasure (news break: it wasn't), it failed. I don't care for this signing at all.

I can grant that Perez' ugly 2018 was marred by injury to his non-pitching arm, that he's only 28, that he had two seasons as a fixture in the Texas rotation. I know full well that the Rangers stadium is a rough environment for hurlers and the Rangers have not often prioritized defense in their lineup in recent seasons. And one year, $4 million is a pretty disposable contract in 2019.

All these reasons to see upside in Perez are, in my view, irrelevant. Even when he was sound and working mor than 180 innings a season for the Rangers, he was at best ineffective. And last year, he was even worse:

About the one thing he did well in 2018, according to Statcast, was spin curve balls.

Perez's low strikeout rates suggest that success for him means being a low-walk, ground ball machine. Tommy John was the prototype of that kind of pitcher, and I have always had a soft spot for guys like that., probably because of Geoff Zahn back in the 70s for the Twins. But

  • that type of pitcher is essentially obsolete today;
  • that type of pitcher is very team dependent, and I don't think the Twins are likely to give him the defensive backing he needs; and
  • Perez has never thrown enough strikes to make the Tommy John model a true fit for him

Every opportunity Perez gets in the Minnesota rotation figures to be at the expense of somebody like Stephen Gonsalves, Kohl Stewart, Fernando Romero, Zach Littell or the presumably discarded DeJong. Somebody, in other words, who has a chance to turn into a truly useful major league starter.

Not that I was all that optimistic about DeJong. I had (and have) more confidence in Aaron Slegers, lost earlier this offseason to the Pirates on waivers. I will, however, note that in DeJong the Twins have DFA'd somebody acquirred by the new management team rather than, say, Tyler Duffey. I had expected Duffey to be more on the bubble than DeJong.


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