The Indians may have a lot of new, young faces on their roster for the upcoming season, but the club will be keeping a veteran presence in Cleveland.On Friday morning, the Indians announced that they have re-signed free-agent reliever Oliver Perez to a one-year, $2.5 million contract for the 2019
The Indians may have a lot of new, young faces on their roster for the upcoming season, but the club will be keeping a veteran presence in Cleveland.
On Friday morning, the Indians announced that they have re-signed free-agent reliever Oliver Perez to a one-year, $2.5 million contract for the 2019 season. The contract includes a vesting option for '20.
The options will come into play depending on the number of appearances Perez makes next season. If he pitches in 55 games (and is healthy), the left-hander will earn $2.75 million in 2020. If Perez makes 60 appearances this season (and is healthy), he would earn $3 million next year, according to MLB Network Insider Jon Heyman.
"[Perez] really helped stabilize our bullpen at a point in time when we really needed it," Indians president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti said. "And he pitched extraordinarily well for us against both left- and right-handed hitters and became a very reliable option for [manager Terry Francona] as the season progressed. We're excited to welcome him back and think he can have a big impact on our team again this year."
Perez, 37, joined the Indians on June 2 of last season after being granted his release from the Yankees' Triple-A affiliate, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, and he played a pivotal role in the Tribe's bullpen. The left-hander led the team with 15 holds, and he posted a 1.39 ERA with 43 strikeouts, seven walks and a 0.742 WHIP in 31 1/3 innings. Perez recorded scoreless appearances in 46 of his 51 outings while limiting left-handed hitters to a .194 batting average and righties to just .104. Of the remaining free-agent relievers, he recorded the second-highest WAR last season (1.1), trailing Boston's Craig Kimbrel (1.5).
"If you reflect back to that time last year, it was a point in time in which we had a lot of uncertainty in our bullpen," Antonetti said. "A handful of guys were injured, a few guys weren't performing to the way we'd hoped, so we were searching for options. One of those was Oliver. And we were fortunate to be able to work through things with the Yankees and get him an opportunity. And to Oliver's credit, from the day he got here, he made the most of that opportunity."
Acquiring Brad Hand and Adam Cimber at the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline last season has helped give the Tribe at least some security in its relief corps heading into the 2019 season, but the addition of Perez further bolsters the bullpen after Andrew Miller signed with the Cardinals and Cody Allen went to the Angels, while Josh Tomlin remains a free agent. Cleveland's other in-house relief options include Neil Ramirez, Nicholas Goody, Tyler Olson, Dan Otero, Jon Edwards, Cody Anderson, A.J. Cole, James Hoyt, Justin Grimm and Danny Salazar.
"We do feel good about the depth we have," Antonetti said. "It will be an area where we continue to always seek options that could potentially improve upon that. But we feel with some of the returning players that we have from last year's bullpen, guys returning from injury, as well as a few players that we acquired during the course of trades or minor signings this offseason, we feel like we've got a good group to choose from heading into Spring Training."
The Indians entered the offseason with a goal of cutting down their payroll, and after multiple trades that dealt Yan Gomes, Edwin Encarnacion and Yonder Alonso, the club trimmed approximately $20 million. The Tribe then added catcher Kevin Plawecki for one year at $1.1 million and now Perez for $2.5 million.
"We had franchise-record payrolls the last few seasons and ownership invested a lot in the team, and the path that we were on was unsustainable," Antonetti said. "So we did need to reposition ourselves financially, which we were able to do with a series of moves earlier in the offseason and provide ourselves that necessary financial flexibility that we needed."
Antonetti said the majority of the team's focus may now be shifted away from Major League free agents.
"I think most of our focus is on [acquiring non-roster players]," Antonetti said. "We feel good about the guys that we have. We do feel an important element for our team moving forward is to provide young players an opportunity to contribute at the Major League level."
The Indians' offseason activity may be winding down, but that doesn't mean the team won't make more additions throughout the season. And although there are plenty of new, young players on Cleveland's roster, the club's goal remains the same: winning the World Series.
"I think that will always be our goal," Antonetti said. "The first thing we want to make sure we do is find a way to gain entry into the postseason, and the best way to do that is winning the American League Central and we feel we are positioned to do that.
"I think the other thing that we've demonstrated over time as we've gone through each of the seasons in which we've been competitive is we will look at opportunities to fine-tune and adjust our roster as the season moves on. I'd expect that to be the case this year if we're, again, in the position of being a contender around the Trade Deadline or later in the season."
Mandy Bell covers the Indians for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter at @MandyBell02.