With Yasmani Grandal doubtful to return in free agency, top prospect Edgar Quero likely another year away from being ready for a full-time MLB role, and the tandem of Korey Lee and Carlos Perez providing uninspiring starts to their MLB careers, the White Sox should seek a catcher or two for the 2024 season. Considering his many ties to the organization and the team’s failed pursuit during this year’s trade deadline, longtime Royals catcher Salvador Perez is a potential fit.
In 2021, Perez signed a four-year, $82 million contract extension with the Royals, keeping him signed through the 2025 season and under team control through the 2026 season ($13.5 million team option, $2 million buyout). Currently, Perez is guaranteed at least $44 million over the next two seasons — $20 million in 2024 and $22 million in 2025 – and at least the buyout afterward. It is very unlikely that his 2026 team option will be picked up, although things can change.
It is also worth noting that it was the Dayton Moore-led Royals front office that re-signed Perez. The front office is now led by J.J. Picollo, and the current level of commitment to Perez appears reduced. Catchers Freddy Fermin and MJ Melendez may be worthy of extended looks behind the plate at the MLB level, and the regime just drafted a catcher (Blake Mitchell) with the Royals’ first-round selection in July’s MLB Draft.
From the Royals’ perspective, it makes sense to entertain a trade of Perez given the above factors, the amount of money he is owed, and his declining performance — Perez was worth 0.5 fWAR in 2022 and -0.3 fWAR in 2023. His defense has remained some of the worst among all catchers in baseball, as it has been for the better part of a decade, but Perez’s offense also has declined. After a strong 125 wRC+ in 2021, Perez’s wRC+ dipped to 108 in 2022 and 86 in 2023.
Perez is very close with White Sox manager Pedro Grifol. In fact, when Grifol was first hired by the team, Perez even held a (virtual) conference with White Sox beat reporters to endorse Chicago’s new manager. A trade to Chicago felt like at least a remote possibility a few weeks later, when Perez unfollowed the Royals on Instagram and followed the White Sox. However, this was reversed after a couple of weeks.
Then came the most tangible interest from the White Sox, who according to Joel Sherman and Bob Nightengale attempted to trade for Perez in July. With Pedro Grifol set to return in 2024, Perez’s former teammate Chris Getz named General Manager of the White Sox, and another longtime Royals executive Gene Watson brought in as Director of Player Personnel, the ties between Perez and the White Sox have only expanded since July.
A trade almost feels like a matter of “when” rather than “if.” The problem? This trade would almost undoubtedly be a disaster on multiple levels.
Imagine being told that the White Sox are interested in bringing in a catcher for next season. He is a very bad defensive catcher but has historically been good (for a catcher) as a hitter. However, after a very solid 2021 season at the plate, his offense has cratered, and as he is entering his age-34 season, a rebound is not particularly likely.
Chances are that you would not be thrilled about pursuing this player. But is he outgoing catcher Yasmani Grandal, or potential incoming catcher Salvador Perez? Because at this point in their careers, everything said above applies to both players aside from Grandal being one year older (And their defensive profiles are very different; Perez was once strong at controlling the running game but deficient elsewhere, while Grandal was an elite pitch framer but below average in other areas. Now, both are net negative defenders).
Catchers typically do not age well, especially when they become MLB regulars in their early twenties. This is fine, and largely understood by teams. But relying on Salvador Perez to come in and produce near his career levels would be naive at best, even for the White Sox.
And that brings up the greater point about Salvador Perez — he is the poster child for a player’s name and reputation greatly outweighing his actual performance. Producing to his career levels would be bringing in an almost exactly league-average hitter and massive net negative defensively. Perez’s 2021 season, in which he hit 48 home runs and compiled 3.2 fWAR, was impressive, but it is the exception, not the norm.
In a typical Salvador Perez season, he will provide around 25 home runs, but with little offensive value otherwise (he walks even less frequently than Tim Anderson) and terrible defense. The White Sox need power, but they need pretty much everything at this point, and acquiring negative-value players because they do one specific thing well is not a risk that should be taken at this juncture.
Of course, Perez is an eight-time all-star, four-time Silver Slugger, and five-time Gold Glove winner. Why Perez won any Gold Gloves when he was younger is a question that has not received a great answer. He was not always an awful defender, but even at his peak, Perez was more passable than good, in part due to massive framing issues. Perhaps he is one of the last holdovers of Gold Gloves being given to players who are good hitters, even though that is the opposite of the award’s intention (there has been lots of interesting research on this topic — see Keith Law’s Smart Baseball, Fangraphs articles, etc.).
Nevertheless, all of the positives about Perez as a player are past accomplishments. If the White Sox want a catcher who is no longer a passable defender, but with a history of good offense, they should simply re-sign Yasmani Grandal, who has been a significantly better hitter (113 wRC+ vs. 102) in his career than Perez and was somehow vastly better than Perez (157 wRC+ vs. 125) during Perez’s revered 2021 season. While Perez was worth -0.3 fWAR last season, Grandal was worth -0.1 fWAR — making either a focal point of the 2024 roster would signal that the White Sox do not value the catcher position.
The Contract (and its ramifications)
As mentioned earlier, Salvador Perez is owed $44 million over the next two seasons. A $22 million per year player should be feasible, even if the White Sox cut payroll as expected. However, chances are such a contract would prevent the team from being able to fill in its more pressing needs in the starting rotation, bullpen, right field, and second base. Many of these holes will be plugged regardless, but to fit a $22 million commitment into the equation, some would either be ignored or addressed with cheap or minor-league signings.
Given Perez’s contract, it is also quite possible that any trade would include the Royals paying for a portion of his remaining salary. Objectively, Perez is a negative value asset, considering his high cost and poor performance over the last two seasons. Therefore, the only way for the Royals to trade him would be to take on another negative-value asset or to eat money.
The problem with this scenario is that the White Sox front office has been so outward about its desire to trade for Perez that the Royals have a little more leverage than they should in this kind of negotiation. This is not to say that a big-name prospect like Bryan Ramos will need to head to Kansas City, but if Perez is indeed desired by Pedro Grifol, Chris Getz, and the rest of the key decision-makers, the acquisition cost will come down to how much money Jerry Reinsdorf is willing to take on.
In an ideal world, half or more of Perez’s contract would be covered by the Royals with only a lottery ticket type of minor league player heading to Kansas City, but given the way the White Sox do business, the more likely outcome is the Royals covering less money for the White Sox to send better prospects.
Beyond the acquisition cost, or what Perez’s contract would mean about spending on the rest of the roster, another ramification is what the trade would reveal about Chris Getz in both the short- and long-term. In the short term, it would suggest that Getz (if the goal is still to compete in 2024) sees Salvador Perez as a quick fix for a team that, frankly, wouldn’t even be a contender if Shohei Ohtani were added to the roster. This would not be a great first impression for Getz as a general manager, as any objective observer should conclude that the White Sox are not a Salvador Perez away from contention.
The same is true in the long term. If Chris Getz makes Salvador Perez his major offseason acquisition, White Sox fans would be justified in holding no faith in Getz’s ability to evaluate players and assemble a roster moving forward. Yes, the White Sox need a catcher to grant time for Edgar Quero to develop — in fact, keeping him in the minor leagues would reflect well on Getz — as Quero should not be rushed, especially with the MLB team far from contending. But that catcher does not need to be Salvador Perez.
Of course, a bright future is still possible even if the White Sox overpay for Perez in a trade. But in the early stages of a new front office, what is perhaps more important than the actual transactions is what we learn about the team’s new decision-makers. Whether a pattern emerges with respect to a particular player profile, position, or a specific team as a trade partner, this winter could reveal a lot about Chris Getz and the new White Sox front office. A trade for Salvador Perez would serve as a negative indicator unless the Royals cover the majority of the money and do not receive any real prospects in return (and at that point, why even trade him).
The point of this kind of analysis is not to be alarmist or to claim that a trade for Salvador Perez means the White Sox are forever doomed. But his persistent connection to the White Sox is preposterous — of all the active MLB players the White Sox could target, Salvador Perez is arguably the one that makes the least amount of sense.
There is a reason that teams generally do not trade for a player on a very expensive contract who is well past his prime, one of the worst players in baseball over the prior two seasons, and would block a top prospect (Edgar Quero) the year after the trade (or just become an extraordinarily pricy backup).
If Chris Getz truly wants to earn the trust of White Sox fans as he described in his introductory press conference, one very easy way to progress toward that goal is to simply not trade for Salvador Perez as everyone expects.
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