Indians Release Chris Perez

Perez’s five-year run with the Indians comes to an end

Yesterday morning the Indians front office made the first of what is sure to be many moves aimed at improving the roster in 2014. However, in a not so surprising turn of events, this move turned out to be addition through subtraction. The Indians gave former closer Chris Perez his outright release.

The move itself was not surprising. Perez had fallen out of favor with the team as the 2013 season wore on. His ninth inning high wire act had grown tiresome, but it was his complete second half collapse and subsequent removal from the closer role that sealed his fate. Also aiding in the decision were the legal troubles from a drug related arrest during the season, his on again/off again feuds with the fans, and his continuing alienation from his teammates.

Jul 11, 2013; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Indians relief pitcher Chris Perez (54) reacts after giving up a run in the ninth inning against the Toronto Blue Jays at Progressive Field. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

The move also clears up a considerable amount of room on the payroll – money that can be better used elsewhere. After making $7.3-million in 2013, Perez was projected to be making upwards of $9-million through arbitration in 2014. With Perez no longer entrenched as the closer and no other defined role apparent, it made little to no sense to keep the embattled right hander around at that cost.

What was surprising was how quickly the Indians decided to move on releasing Perez. They had until the December 2 non-tender deadline to make their decision to either release or trade Perez. The fact that the decision came not even 24 hours after the final out of the World Series tells us that not only had the Indians grown tired of Perez’s act, but also that the decision had more than likely been made days, if not weeks ahead of time.

For Chris Perez, he will enter the free agent pool but shouldn’t be out of work long. Teams are always looking for bullpen help and every offseason we see more than a fair share of competent closers get overpaid for their services. So while Perez struggled in the second half and lost his job, some team will more than likely take a chance on him, possibly even to be their closer in 2014.

It won’t come easy for him, though. Perez is coming off of the worst season of his career. He saved only 25 games in 2013, his lowest total sing 2010 when he saved 23 games. He also blew five other opportunities. His 4.33 ERA, 1.8 HR/9, 9.3 H/9, were the worst of his career. For any team contemplating signing Perez, they must first have to decide whether or not those numbers were a one year aberration or a sign of what is to come.

During his five-year stint with the Indians, Perez had his ups and downs. He collected 124 saves, third most in team history, and twice represented the Indians in the All-Star game. However, despite the accolades and success on the field, Perez will more than likely be remembered for occasionally mouthing off at fans and tip toeing the line between dominant closer and ninth inning escape artist.

As for the Indians, they will begin the process of naming a new closer for the 2014 season. This will include examining several in-house options, among them being Bryan Shaw, Cody Allen, Joe Smith if he is able to resign, or Vinnie Pestano.  The Indians could also think outside the box if they really wanted to by moving Justin Masterson out of the rotation and into the back-end of the bullpen. This is highly unlikely, but can’t necessarily be ruled out.

The Indians can also explore external options through either free agency or trade. However, the Indians will have to be careful not to overpay for a closer. As we have seen on an almost yearly basis, a dominant closer can be found almost anywhere. They have potentially just as much success promoting someone on the cheap as they do at failing by overpaying someone on the open market.

Whatever their decision, one thing is abundantly clear following the release of Chris Perez. They are not messing around this offseason. There is very obviously a plan in place and yesterday was just the first step of what is sure to be many in constructing the 2014 Cleveland Indians.