At 39, 'savvy' southpaw Ollie returns to Tribe

February 18th, 2021

CLEVELAND -- may be six months away from turning 40 years old with 18 Major League seasons under his belt, but he showed no signs of becoming less effective over the past three years with the Tribe. So, as the old adage goes, if it’s not broken, why fix it?

Indians president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti announced on Thursday afternoon that the club had signed Pérez to a Minor League deal. A source told’s Jesse Sanchez that Pérez will make $1.25 million if he makes the team, and the contract also includes an additional $1.5 million in incentives.

“I think one of the things we've really grown to appreciate about Oliver is not only his savvy on the mound and his ability to get outs,” Antonetti said, “but the impact he has while he's sitting out there in the bullpen with other players and the respect he commands within the clubhouse. So we're really excited to welcome him back to the organization and see what that 2021 chapter of his career looks like.”

Pérez will certainly be a strong veteran presence around camp -- and in the bullpen if he makes the team -- as the average age of the 20 hurlers (both starters and relievers) on the Tribe’s 40-man roster is currently 24.9. And if Pérez would make the Opening Day roster, it will mark the start of his 19th season in the big leagues, which would extend his own record that he set last year of the most seasons for a Mexican-born player.

“I think if you ask that question to all old players like, ‘[Did you think you’d] be playing for this long?’ There’s no way,” Pérez joked last year when he set the record. “When they canceled the season in Spring Training, I was feeling like not great because I was really close to making [the team] because the season was like 10 days away from the start.”

Pérez has another solid chance at making the Indians’ roster. Aside from Kyle Nelson, who pitched in one big league game last year, the Tribe doesn’t have any other lefties competing for a spot in the bullpen.

“I think it’s always good to have a lefty,” Indians pitching coach Carl Willis said. “I’m not sure with the three-batter minimum rule now, I guess you’re always trying to take your best pitchers, but right now you’re looking for your best pitchers because they have to get hitters out from either side of the plate. I don’t know if it’s as important as it used to be because of that rule. … But it’s not often you see a bullpen without at least one lefty.”

Pérez, who owns a career 4.35 ERA, spent the majority of his first nine years in the big leagues as a starter before reinventing himself as a reliever. He had settled into a lefty specialist role but had to adapt once again in 2020 when the three-batter minimum rule was put in place. Despite what’s been thrown at him, he’s found a way to remain effective for two decades. Over his three seasons with Cleveland, Pérez pitched to a 2.67 ERA with 105 strikeouts and 25 walks in 91 innings.

“He just so loves playing the game and he just finds a way to be successful and to give hitters a hard time,” Willis said. “To me, that’s baseball. … I mean he pitches. He’s learned how to pitch. For an old guy like me, that’s fun to watch.”