Since 2014, only one person has started for the American League All-Star team behind the plate. Royals catcher Salvador Perez has been undeniably one of the best catchers in all of baseball over the last half decade. Save your opinions, you’re not changing mine. Salvador Perez is the only catcher in the last 20 years to win the World Series MVP Award and is the one of the two best catchers in the American League.
Salvador Perez has gotten off to a really good start in 2018. He’s already hit 8 home runs (2nd among MLB catchers) after missing the beginning of the season on the DL. He’s throwing out base stealers at a ridiculous, and career high, 62% clip this season. After stumbling a bit in his defensive value ranking in 2017 (FanGraphs), he’s bounced back well in 2018 and is tied for 6th in baseball in defensive value. He’s currently third in the American League in fWAR (hello Luke Maile) and looks a lot like the AL’s starting catcher again this July.
Combine all of this with the fact that Salvador Perez is under contract through 2021 for only about $40M more, he’s probably the most valuable trade asset that the Royals have. A World Series MVP, 4-time All-Star Game starter, defensive wizard, 4-time Gold Glove Award winner, Silver Slugger winner, and one of the most powerful bats of any catcher in the game. That ought to command a haul big enough to completely revamp the Royals rebuild. Salvador Perez will command enough in a trade to take KC’s farm system out of the basement permanently.
At least…that’s how we see Salvador Perez as Royals fans, right? That’s how the Royals front office sees Salvy for sure. Salvy is a baseball God in Kansas City and will certainly have his number retired should he stay in Kansas City. But…is that how the rest of the league sees Salvador Perez? Let’s look at Salvador Perez from the eyes of another big league front office:
- Poor pitch framing/receiving skills
- Poor base runner
- A .301 career OBP, really?
- I’m gonna have to pay him $13M in 2021? Given his injury history…
- There are 15 catchers with a better average pop time this season
- Great power, but he strikes out quite a bit
- Is he going to mesh well with my pitchers? What if there’s an adjustment period in the middle of a pennant race?
It’s important to remember that, as much as Royals fans and the Royals front office may love Salvador Perez, there are undeniable flaws in his game that will deter other front offices. Salvador Perez would undoubtedly help all but maybe one team in the American League this season (Gary Sanchez isn’t taking a back seat to anyone), but the question lies in “how much”?
Here’s a list of contending teams, in both leagues, that I think Salvador Perez could realistically wind up this season:
- Boston Red Sox
- Milwaukee Brewers
- New York Mets
- Colorado Rockies
Every other team in contention either has a serviceable catching option that wouldn’t require giving up the prospects necessary to acquire Salvador Perez. The four teams listed above…well…they don’t. Among those four teams COMBINED, the first catcher that appears on FanGraphs’ WAR leaderboard among catchers is 37th. Kevin Plawecki of the Mets has accrued 0.1 fWAR this season. Among those four teams, their catchers have combined for -1.2 fWAR this season, with only Plawecki registering a positive count. Salvador Perez alone has 0.9 fWAR in only 30 games.
Of those four teams listed, only the Mets aren’t currently in a playoff position. A catcher like Salvador Perez would go a long way in bolstering the lineups for all four of those teams, but which teams are most likely to cough up the prospects necessary to acquire Salvy, if any.
- The Milwaukee Brewers make the most sense to me of any team the Royals could potentially deal with. The Royals have several pieces that Milwaukee could use, including Whit Merrifield, Kelvin Herrera, Danny Duffy, and Salvador Perez. The Brewers aren’t going to forfeit their entire top 10 prospects list to acquire ALL of those players, but, they’d sure look good if they did. As much as Merrifield, Herrera, and Duffy would all help the Brewers, no one would help them as much as Salvador Perez. Stephen Vogt is done for the season, Manny Pina is hitting .215 and Jett Bandy is hitting .188. They need a catcher. The Brewers went all-in this offseason by trading for Christian Yelich and signing Lorenzo Cain, and they are positioned well to take the NL Central if they keep playing at this pace. Salvador Perez puts them over the top. What do the Brewers have to offer in return, though? Well, plenty. The Brewers, even after the Yelich trade, still have a loaded farm system. Corbin Burnes, Lucas Erceg, Keston Hiura, Brett Phillips, Freddy Peralta, and Luis Ortiz would all be good center pieces for a big-time trade with Kansas City. All six of those guys would become the Royals top prospect as soon as the trade was made. Would the Brewers pull the trigger to reunite Salvy with LoCain and give themselves their catcher of the future? The Brewers current top catching prospect is 19 and hasn’t played in 2018 yet. They do have Jacob Nottingham hitting well in AAA, but would they trust a rookie catcher that hit .209 in AA last year during a pennant race? This could be an interesting option.
- The Boston Red Sox are going to be involved in a season-long battle royale with the New York Yankees for first place in the AL East. The loser of that competition will probably host the AL Wildcard game against one of the Angels or Mariners, and I don’t think Boston wants to leave their playoff chances against the likes of Shohei Ohtani and Mike Trout. Add that in with the fact that Boston has a GM in Dave Dombrowski that has no problem selling away his future to win now, and we may have a match here. What does Boston have to offer Kansas City that may be able to woo away Salvador Perez? Boston’s farm system isn’t exactly…oozing with talent. Top prospect Michael Chavis is currently on an 80-game suspension for PED’s. Top arm Jay Groome underwent Tommy John Surgery this year and former Mizzou ace and first round pick Tanner Houck has struggled so far in 8 starts in the Carolina League. I like Mike Shawaryn a little bit, and Jay Groome and Tanner Houck are obviously good arms that Kansas City would gladly take right now. If the Red Sox wanted to dump their entire farm system for Salvy, we may have a fit, but they don’t have the super-star top prospect that Dayton Moore would probably want back in a trade.
- The Colorado Rockies are another interesting option for Salvy. How many home runs could Salvy hit in that park? The problem is, the Rockies have Tom Murphy hitting the cover off the ball in AAA and aren’t going to move top prospect Brendan Rodgers. After Rodgers, I’m not sure the Rockies have the pitching capable of getting Salvy away from KC. If they’re willing to deal Rodgers……
- The Mets need a catcher, but, I don’t know how long they will be in contention in 2018 and they don’t exactly have a stellar farm system either.
So there’s the issue with trading Salvador Perez in a nutshell. The teams who need him probably can’t afford him (save for the Brewers) and the teams who can afford him don’t need him. The Royals and Royals fans almost certainly value Salvy more than other teams and the return Salvy would bring would almost certainly leave fans upset beyond repair. The smart thing to do would be ship Salvy to the highest bidder and give this rebuild a big ole jumpstart, but the problem we may find is that teams may not be willing to give up that haul. It’s an interesting case, and ought to be fun to watch as the 2018 season rolls on.