The Milwaukee Brewers haven’t been secretive about their desire to add more arms to the back end of the their bullpen, and today the team announced they have brought in former All-Star closer Chris Perez on a minor league contract. The 29 year old right hander pitched for the Dodgers in a setup capacity last season.
Perez was drafted by the Cardinals in 2006, and broke in with St. Louis in 2008. Perez was traded to the Indians in 2009, where his career really took off. He posted a 1.71 ERA in 63 innings in 2010, taking over the closer’s role midseason. He was an All-Star for the Indians in 2011 and 2012, saving a combined 75 games over the two seasons with a 3.45 ERA. Perez has never been a player to mince words, and quickly fell out of favor with the fans in Cleveland after being vocally critical of their lack of support for the team. He was arrested in June of 2013 on marijuana charges after allegedly trying to have some weed mailed to his house, and was released by the Indians following the season.
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Perez caught on with the Dodgers last season, posting an unimpressive 4.27 ERA in 46.1 innings. While Perez throws a solid heater that averaged 94.2 MPH last season, his slider, which he throws nearly 25% of the time, was rated as 4.9 runs below average last season (he throws an average changeup very sparingly as well). He had a big problem with walks last year, averaging 4.9 per nine innings, and his career mark is just a shade under four. Home runs have been an issue with Chris as well, as he has given up 17 over the past two seasons in only 100.1 combined innings. A career 36.6% ground ball rate generally doesn’t bode well at Miller Park. Despite his big fastball, Perez has seen his strikeout rate fall each of the last three seasons. His ERA has consistently outperformed estimators, with both FIP and xFIP giving him a career 4.23 mark versus a 3.51 ERA. Perez has consistently benefited from both high strand rates and low BABIP over the course of his career. Perez has been rated at -1.7 WAR over the past two seasons according to Fangraphs.
Given Chris Perez’s poor results and even worse peripherals over the past few seasons, his signing might leave some scratching their heads. However, on a minor league signing, there is no risk involved for the Brewers. Perez will not need to be added to the 40 man roster unless he makes the team in spring, so there is no current roster crunch. His deal with reportedly pay him $1.5 mil if he makes the team, and he can potentially double that through incentives. Given that the Brewers gave Neal Cotts gave a $3 mil guarantee to be basically the left handed Brandon Kintzler, this seems like a small risk to take on a former All-Star who still throws heat.
Chris Perez may not end up being a difference maker for the Brewers in 2015 (or even making the team), but his signing is a very low-risk, high-reward move for the Milwaukee. Doug Melvin was smart to roll the dice on a comeback candidate like Perez, who could join hard throwers Jeremy Jeffress and Will Smith as setup men in the back end of the bullpen. I wish the Brewers would’ve been able to make more signings like this during the course of the offseason, with pitchers like Carlos Villanueva and Sergio Santos being signed to minor league deals this winter. I won’t split hairs now, though, and I’m content with Chris Perez competing for a spot this spring.