Originally posted on Waiting For Next Year  |  Last updated 8/29/13
The Diff is your weekly WFNY look into the amazing world of sports statistics. For a complete log of articles, click this link. Last week, I wrote in detail about the struggling Indians offense. Now, I’ve talking about everyone’s favorite closer. Chris Perez, 27-year-old closer, is making $7.3 million in his penultimate arbitration year. He’s set to be a free agent after the 2014 season. Chris Perez, now-quiet loud-mouth, has the sixth most saves in baseball since 2010 with a 2.92 ERA. He’s only 19 saves short of the Cleveland career mark. But because of the first fact, does that mean the Indians should be willing move on from him this offseason? Back in January, Chris Perez reached a very typical one-year deal to avoid arbitration. At the time, he became the team’s second-highest paid player. The salary was an expected increase after he saved 36-plus games in a second straight season. He earned just $4.5 million in 2012. But the deal was not a no-brainer for some. Yes, the Indians have avoided actual arbitration with any player since 1991. So in that sense, it was likely that the team didn’t have much of a choice in terms of short-changing Perez’s likely open market worth. Yet is it still worthwhile for the team to be doing so? It’s no secret that I’m a gigantic admirer of the work of my colleague Jon. His 2010 WFNY series titled “SABR-Toothed Triber” is pure gold, despite the bad baseball of those days. He also wrote perhaps the best never-published thing that I’ve ever read. When he writes, I devour every word. So, when Jon wrote a lot of words in an article titled “The Folly of the Chris Perez deal” back in January, I remembered it quite vividly. Let’s share this excerpt: “Paying exorbitant amounts of money for a closer is like taking out a life insurance policy on your team’s season.  Teams like the Yankees or Red Sox or Dodgers or Angels or Rangers—these teams have invested hundreds of millions of dollars in their roster.  They have, collectively, committed to spending nearly a billion dollars next season on their respective rosters.  For teams with these sorts of financial commitments, you can sort of understand why they wouldn’t want a question mark at the backend of the bullpen.  Perhaps spending one-twenty-fifth of your total investment to make sure it doesn’t all go up in flames could even be considered prudent, considering the money involved. The Indians, on the other hand?  Well, a small market team paying big bucks for a closer would be akin to taking out a big fat life insurance policy on your unemployed, alcoholic Uncle Bob instead of using the money to buy him a new suit, a haircut, and a job-interview prep class.  You end up spending far more on the insurance policy than you’re ever likely to recoup, especially when the money could have been used more judiciously in the first place on something you and Bob could’ve really used.” Generously, for 2014, Chris Perez’s salary likely will be in the $9-11 million range. That’s just how the game of baseball works. Arbitration-related salaries hardly ever go down, not usually for one-moth injuries, and especially not after another sub-3.50 ERA season with 20-plus saves. Previously, I shared that the Indians have a handful of salaries ballooning between now and the 2014 season. To be exact, Cleveland has $18.2 million in guaranteed raises lined up for just five players next year. That’s a lot of money for a mid-market team. The team’s Opening Day salary was somewhere in the $76-82 million range this season. None of us as fans know whether that could change for the future. For now, the safest option – and the one with some historical backing – would be to consider that’s the likely 2014 target, give or take just a little bit. In this scenario, the Indians won’t have a significant amount of wiggle room. Yes, Brett Myers and Mark Reynolds aren’t returning. Three players add up to a possible total of $23.65 million in 2013 dollars for upcoming free agents. So that leaves a potential net positive of a bit over $5 million when dealing with the guaranteed raises. But then there’s the arbitration raises likely for a small group of players – Masterson ($5.69 million this year), Drew Stubbs ($2.83 million) and Michael Brantley ($527K) – and the fact that the Indians, even as a likely mid-80-win team, are still very flawed. The offense continues to struggle and doesn’t have a great outlook. Justin Masterson and Asdrubal Cabrera are also free agents after 2014. So possible other moves would be necessary for this team to peak during its key contention window, which might just be 2014-15. Thus, despite the fact he’s been established for a few years as a relatively solid closer, this could mean saving more money by parting ways with Chris Perez. Let’s take a look at some of the most notable contracts ever handed to a closer in recent baseball history: Billy Wagner: Signed 4-year, $43 million deal in winter 2005 before age-34 season B.J. Ryan: Signed 5-year, $47.5 million deal in winter 2005 before age-30 season Francisco Cordero: Signed 4-year, $46 million deal in winter 2007 before age-33 season Kerry Wood: Signed 2-year, $20.5 million deal in winter 2008 before age-32 season Francisco Rodriguez: Signed 3-year, $37 million deal in winter 2008 before age-27 season Joe Nathan: Signed 4-year, $47 million deal in spring 2008 before age-33 season Brad Lidge: Signed 3-year, $37.5 million extension starting in 2009 for age-32 season Heath Bell: Signed 3-year, $27 million deal in winter 2011 before age-34 season Jonathan Papelbon: Signed 4-year, $50 million deal in winter 2011 before age-31 season Rafael Soriano: Signed 2-year, $28 million (backloaded) deal in winter 2012 before age-33 season Brandon League: Signed 3-year, $22.5 million deal in winter 2012 before age-30 season Yes, in relation to this obscene list of over-priced part-time players, Chris Perez very much does have age on his side. After signing whatever deal he receives in free agency in 2014, he’ll only be entering his age-29 season. But FanGraphs also has broken down the awful recent rate of long-term success for under-30 closers, too. Yet, the biggest problem in relation to that list might be that fact that Chris Perez is also not an elite closer, but merely an above average one. Take a look at his career stat line, noting the ERA+ and sOPS+, which mark his success relative to league average. Even I was surprised to see some of the numbers in this chart. Oddly enough, Perez’s career ERA+ of 124 actually supersedes his ERA+ from any individual season besides his remarkable 2010 campaign. That’s fairly impressive. Consistently, he’s blown exactly four saves in each of the last four seasons. His K/BB ratio has never been spectacular, but is notably improved over the last two years. His OPS+ is actually slightly worse than the average this season, the worst of his MLB career. Chris Perez’s 5.4 career WAR ranks 347th among relievers all-time, per Baseball-Reference. Even though he ranks 35th in relief appearances since 2008, he only ranks 43rd in terms of WAR. Since 1954, there have been 186 seasons of a reliever tallying 3.5+ WAR. That averages out to about two or three per year, which has been the case fairly consistently throughout this span. Perez has just one season with a WAR greater than 1.0, and that was his 2.5 WAR season in 2010. That’s the only year he’s been in the category of the game’s top-five relievers statistically, outside of merely saves. Thus, if one was ever concerned about tossing around eight-figure deals to any single part-time player expected to face just about 250 batters – the equivalent of about 1/25th of a season – then the thought of over-paying a solid, not great such player should be even more terrifying. Recently, I finished reading Jonah Keri’s tremendous book “The Extra 2%” about the rise of the Tampa Bay Rays under a group of former Wall Street executives. The main success stories emerging from Tampa Bay’s run of on-field prominence: great drafting, development, pitching health and the ability to find cheap value. In essence, the myth of the traditional closer is dying, as an ESPN Insider article stated. That’s the new “Moneyball” spirit. It’s not just about talking walks and drafting well anymore. For teams like Oakland and Tampa Bay and Cleveland to compete, it’s near essential to not waste $13 million on two players for -1.7 WAR – looking at you, Reynolds and Myers – or give $11 million to a merely above-average closer. Even if it’s just for a single season. Without Chris Perez, the Indians still will have a collection of somewhat similar above-average reliever talent: Vinnie Pestano should be back, Cody Allen is an emerging 24-year-old, and Bryan Shaw and Marc Rzepczynski are having surprisingly solid campaigns. After that in 2014, you’d probably expect to add in two more players from the near-AAAA mold and possibly a cheap free agent. Perhaps Carlos Carrasco or Josh Tomlin also could be best utilized as middle relievers. If the Indians move on from Chris Perez, I don’t think it will be because of declining performance or really anything on-the-field. He is who he is: An above-average reliever with usual health and a fiery personality. Any such reason for moving on will be about economics: The Cleveland Indians as an organization simply can’t afford an eight-figure closer. Let’s skip ahead one last time to Jon’s article from January to close this out: “But I told myself that if the Indians opened the 2013 season with Chris Perez on the roster, they will have blown the off-season.  They will have taken an asset and, simply by doing nothing, turned it into a liability.  A young, promising talent is on its way to becoming the one thing a team like the Indians can never have—a final year arbitration player counting down the days to free agency, leaving town for free. Maybe I’m wrong about all this.  Maybe the Indians will claw their way into the post-season by the skin of their teeth, powered primarily by the talented young bullpen we saw on display last year.  Maybe they wouldn’t have been able to accomplish anything without their hirsute closer.  Maybe closers matter way more than I think, and this’ll be the year I’m proven wrong about them, once and for all.  I sure hope so. But would I bet $7.3 million on it?  Nah.  I’d rather have a real DH and just get Uncle Bob that job already.  That’s just me, though.” In 2013, the Indians surpassed Jon’s expectations and remain on the precipice of the playoff race. A good bullpen is always a helpful thing to have when actually playing meaningful baseball, unlike the past few Augusts. But would I go all-in with nearly $11 million on Chris Perez in 2014 just to make the Cleveland bullpen a wee bit better? Nah. I’d rather find a way to renounce his rights or trade him to a team that can afford that deal, and construct a more cost-effective bullpen without him.
GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Report: Jets making calls trying to trade Sheldon Richardson

Broncos players take to Twitter to call for team to sign Gary Barnidge

Report: Paul likely to re-sign with Clippers; Griffin more uncertain

Report: Larry Bird quitting as Pacers president

Rivers on if Chargers had picked QB: ‘It wouldn’t have been great’

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Browns reportedly were shut down on Jimmy Garoppolo trade attempt again

Browns plan to use Jabrill Peppers on offense and defense

Kevin Durant perpetuates 'Cupcake Wars' with Thunder

Bill O’Brien: Tom Savage is the Texans’ starter

Redskins deny Cousins trade report; Browns cite ‘bad reporting’

Roger Goodell weighs in on NFL's evolving marijuana debate

The 'Beast Mode as a parting gift' quiz

Our favorite undrafted players of all time

Everything you need for the 2017 NFL Draft

Kicking it: Orlando surges while the Galaxy struggles

Three Up, Three Down: Madison Bumgarner gets grounded

Box Score 4/28: NFL Draft gets younger every year

The 10 best sports docs available for streaming

The 'NFL Draft Day is finally upon us' quiz

Most memorable 'NFL Draft weekend drama' stories

Stanley Cup Playoffs: Eastern rivalries take center stage

Marshawn Lynch gives an already-spurned city hometown appeal

Box Score 4/27: Waiting for Goodell to call our name

MLB News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

The 'Beast Mode as a parting gift' quiz

Everything you need for the 2017 NFL Draft

Our favorite undrafted players of all time

Kicking it: Orlando surges while the Galaxy struggles

Three Up, Three Down: Madison Bumgarner gets grounded

The 10 best sports docs available for streaming

The 'NFL Draft Day is finally upon us' quiz

Most memorable 'NFL Draft weekend drama' stories

Stanley Cup Playoffs: Eastern rivalries take center stage

Marshawn Lynch gives an already-spurned city hometown appeal

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker