Indians Offseason Target: Rafael Perez


Will Rafael Perez Return to Cleveland in 2014?

The Cleveland Indians will use many different avenues during the offseason to improve their 40-man roster and build vertical depth in the minors.

Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Last winter the Tribe traded reliever Esmil Rogers for shortstop Mike Aviles and catcher Yan Gomes.

They traded away a pending free agent outfielder Shin-Soo Choo to acquire relievers Matt Albers and Bryan Shaw, starting pitcher Trevor Bauer, and outfielder Drew Stubbs

They  signed big ticket free agent outfielders Michael Bourn and Nick Swisher.

They also reached into what I like to call the ugly list and found pitcher Scott Kazmir, utility INF/OF Ryan Raburn, and designated hitter Jason Giambi -all signed to minor league deals.

Over the winter I will focus on all types of players from the Sexy List (top tier free agents who may fall to the Indians price range) to the Ruggedly Handsome list (players who multiple teams will be targeting) to the the Ugly List (players with easy to spot warts).

Today I’ll look at former Tribe reliever Rafael Perez.

List: Ugly

2013 Salary/Contact Status:

Perez played on a minor league contract in 2013. Unless the Boston Red Sox add him to their 40-man roster and tender him a contract he will be a minor league free agent.

Last 3 Seasons:

He began the 2011 season with the Indians and in the first half of the season looked better than he had through most of his career. He went 3-1 with a 1.91 ERA holding the opposition to a .239 batting average against. His second half was noticeably worse pitching to a 4.28 ERA and the opposition hit .274 against him. More importantly he stopped missing bats. In the first half of the year he had a K-rate of 16.3% and in the second half that fell to 7.7%.

Some questioned whether he was injured but over the offseason their was no word of surgery but in spring training he had to be shut down due to a sore left shoulder. Despite only throwing between 79-85 mph during his spring work he was activated by the Indians on April 7th.

Apr 17, 2012; Seattle, WA, USA; Cleveland Indians relief pitcher Rafael Perez (53) pitches to the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field. Cleveland defeated Seattle 9-8. Mandatory Credit: Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

Maybe paying attention to the radar gun may have helped because after just 8 appearances he was shut down due to a sore shoulder. After resting for two months he began  a rehab assignment and looked close to returning but sprained his ankle. After allowing the ankle to heal he took to the mound again but the shoulder pain flared up and on September 18th it was announced that his season was over. He has surgery to repair the shoulder (debridement) on September 26th which would require two months of rest before starting a throwing program.

The Indians did not tender him a contract following the 2012 season and he signed with the Minnesota Twins who wrestled with the idea of returning him to the starting rotation. He was sent to the Twins Triple-A affiliate Rochester Red Wings where he made four relief appearances before opting out of his contract and signing a minor league contract with the Boston Red Sox on May 23rd.

The Red Sox assigned him to their Double A affiliate Portland Sea Dogs where he spent the rest of the season.  While with the Sea Dogs he appeared in 25 games (all in relief) working 30.2 innings. He was 2-2 with a 2.64 ERA striking out 30 hitters while walking just 5.

Why Cleveland?

The reason Rafael Perez is on the list of offseason targets isn’t an attempt at a nice story or a reunion. One of the attributes I’ll look for in a player on the ugly list is a healthy season prior where the player can get over an injury, eliminate bad habits, and prepare for a normal offseason. Whether Perez had done well in Double A or Triple A or not is irrelevant. He made it through the 2013 season without experiencing a setback to the shoulder.

I do not know the movement on his slider nor do I know the velocity of his pitches. What I do know is that Perez was not a pitcher who was dependent on an overpowering fastball and that recovering from a shoulder injury is much more likely than if he did.

J.P. Howell is another left handed reliever who had shoulder surgery. Howell does not depend on a fastball to get hitters out and after a rough 2011 (2-3, 6.10 ERA) coming back from surgery returned to his former self and had a good year in both 2012 (1-0, 3.04 ERA) and 2013 (4-1, 2.03). Howell has also seen his workload increase in each of the last 3 years from 46 games in 2011 to 55 games in 2012 to 67 games in 2013.

Perez didn’t spend 2013 in the majors trying to find his location like Howell did but he did make it through the year. He will now have an offseason to prove to major league teams that his arm and control are major league ready.

If he were to be able to come back and be the Rafael Perez that routinely got hitters from both sides of the plate out and was a workhorse appearing in 70 games in 2010 and 71 in 2011 the Indians would have a perfect compliment to Marc Rzepczynski.

Keep An Eye Out:

Perez is continuing his comeback effort by pitching for the Gigantes Del Cibao in the Dominican Winter League. Currently he has tossed 5.1 scoreless innings and allowed 3 hits striking out 1 and walking 0.

Type of Contract: 

Perez still has to prove himself major league ready. The Indians should offer him a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training.

Other Ugly List Members:

Ryan Roberts – Previewed Here  – as vertical depth at Columbus in the event of injuries to infielders.

Jordan Norberto – Previewed Here – left handed reliever who will spend most of year rehabbing from TJ surgery but would be under team control for three seasons.

Other Ruggedly Handsome List Memebers:

Justin MorneauPreviewed Here – good defense, ability to hit right handed pitching, cleanup hitter, and will free front office to shop Drew Stubbs or Asdrubal Cabrera or both.

Roy HalladayPreviewed  Here – Add value and character to Indians and if he rebounds from last seasons shoulder issues he could be a big boost to the rotation.

Rafael FurcalPreviewed Here – Could allow Indians to trade Asdrubal Cabrera while having a stop gap 1-year shortstop while Francisco Lindor finishes his development in the minors.

Tim HudsonPreviewed Here – Despite his age and ugly ankle injury last season the wily vet has been consistent his whole career. He’d be a nice addition to soften the blow of losing Ubaldo Jimenez and/or Scott Kazmir.