ARLINGTON -- The Rangers wanted to talk with pitcher Martin Perez directly before they finalized a long-term contract with his agent Felix Olivo. Perez impressed general manager Jon Daniels with what he said.
"When he got on the phone, Martin said, 'Nothing is going to change.'" Daniels said. "He said, 'Money is not going to change me. It gives me security, but nothing is going to change.' Then he talked about his long-term goals."
The Rangers expect Perez to achieve his long-term goals, and they showed their confidence in the 22-year-old left-hander by signing him to a four-year contract worth $12.5 million. The deal also includes three options years for 2018-20 at terms that could lead to significant savings for Texas at the end of the contract. Perez can earn a maximum of $32.55 million over a seven-year period.
"I don't ever want to forget this day," Perez said Thursday at a news conference to announce the deal. "This is the most important day of my life. I want to thank the Rangers organization for trusting me and giving me the opportunity to stay here for at least four more years. I want to stay here my entire career. I'm still going to be the same person. I want to do my best and help this team compete for the World Series."
Perez, who has one year and 38 days of service time, agreed to a $1 million signing bonus, a $750,000 contract for 2014 and a $1 million salary for '15. Perez could have been eligible for arbitration in 2016 but instead has agreed to a $2.9 million contract for that season and $4.4 million for '17.
Perez's final year of arbitration would be 2018, but the Rangers have a $6 million option for that season with a $2.45 million buyout. Texas also has options on what would be Perez's first two years of free agency. The option is for $7.5 million with a $750,000 buyout for 2019, and a $9 million salary for '20 with a $250,000 buyout.
The Rangers made the commitment after Perez went 10-6 with a 3.62 ERA in 20 starts at the big league level this past season. It was a major step up after he went 1-4 with a 5.45 ERA in six starts and six relief appearances in 2012. But Perez has been Texas' top pitching prospect for the past several years and is starting to show why he has long been held in high regard.
"We're talking about a guy who our people have been around for six or seven years," Daniels said. "We have seen him grow over the years in every way possible. He has always had the good arm action, delivery and stuff, and he is starting to put it all together. The sky is the limit."
The contract has benefits for both sides. Perez gets security against major injury and more money up front than what would be normal for a player of his service time. He also still has the ability to be a free agent before he is 30. If Perez ends up being as good as the Rangers expect, they could save a significant amount of money in 2019-20, when he could have been a free agent.
"Now that I have the money, I have to focus on playing baseball," Perez said. "You have to use the money, money can't use you. I have to focus on playing baseball and learn something new every day to be a better pitcher and a better person."
The Rangers have all five members of their rotation either signed or under control through at least 2016. Matt Harrison, who is expected to be at full strength in Spring Training after missing almost all of last season with a back injury, is signed through 2017, while Derek Holland and Yu Darvish are signed through at least '16. The Rangers have two options on Holland for 2017 and '18. Darvish is also signed through 2017 but could opt out of his last year depending how he does over the next four years in the American League Cy Young Award voting.
"Part of our long-term plan is to identify the best talent, the best makeup guys and the best workers, and make sure we keep that core together," Daniels said.
Alexi Ogando is the only member of the rotation that does not have a long-term contract. He is eligible for arbitration for the first time this offseason and can't be a free agent until after 2016.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger.