Royals sign Salvy to 4-year extension

'I wanted to stay here': Catcher inks for franchise-record $82 million

March 21st, 2021

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Royals catcher didn’t miss a beat when the question came up on Sunday afternoon of whether he'd thought about testing free agency.

“I wanted to stay here,” Perez said. “I want to stay here.”

And instead of hitting the free-agent market at the end of the 2021 season, Perez will stay with the organization that signed him, agreeing to a four-year contract extension with the Royals that the club announced before Sunday’s 6-1 win over the Rockies at Surprise Stadium.

“It’s not often that you get a chance to have press conferences like this, where you get a chance to reward and celebrate a player like Salvador Perez,” Royals general manager Dayton Moore said. “Who he is as a person, what he means to the game of baseball, what he means to the organization, our fans. It’s a special day to be able to celebrate that.”

The deal is worth a franchise-record $82 million, a source told, surpassing left fielder Alex Gordon’s $72 million deal in 2014. With the extension starting in 2022, Perez's deal has an average annual value of $20.5 million, and the full breakdown looks like this:

2022: $18 million
2023: $20 million
2024: $20 million
2025: $22 million
2026: $13.5 million club option or $2 million buyout

“I feel so happy and excited that I’m going to stay here for a long time, for four or five more years, and hopefully I can end my career here.” Perez said. “I love the people here, I love the fans. I’m excited. I can’t wait for the season to start and to see what happens.”

This is the second contract extension the Royals have signed this spring, following Hunter Dozier’s $25 million, four-year extension on March 1. The contracts follow an offseason focused on bringing experienced players onto the roster via the free-agent and trade market to round out Royals chairman and CEO John Sherman’s first full year as owner.

Moore said that in January, he went to Florida with Perez, Sherman, assistant general manager Rene Francisco, manager Mike Matheny and bench coach Pedro Grifol -- who has been instrumental in Perez’s catching career -- to start the contract extension talks.

“John has been extremely supportive, and he’s a great admirer of Salvy,” Moore said. “It was important for us all to come together and talk about this potentiality, hopefully getting to this point in time in the process, because John’s a big believer in Salvador Perez.”

Perez jumped onto the Royals’ radar in 2006 as a 16-year-old infielder in Venezuela, when Orlando Estevez, now the Royals’ coordinator of Latin American scouting, asked if Perez could throw from behind home plate. Something about catching felt right to Perez, and the Royals signed him as a catcher that year.

Perez has only grown from there -- and carved out his legacy as one of the greatest catchers in franchise history. Now 30 years old, Perez debuted in 2011 and led Kansas City to its first World Series title in 30 years. Perez -- or better known as “Salvy” or “El Niño” to his teammates and fans -- hit .364 with two doubles and two RBIs in five games in the 2015 World Series, winning MVP honors.

“The catching position is, without a doubt, the most demanding position in our game.” Moore said. “And it’s hard, and I think almost impossible, to win championships unless you have somebody behind the plate, someone at the catcher position who is a leader. Somebody who brings out the confidence in your pitching staff. And Salvy does all of that.

“And there’s more. There’s more upside in Salvador.”

A six-time All-Star, five-time Gold Glove Award winner and three-time Silver Slugger Award winner, Perez enters the year with 138 career home runs as a catcher, which ranks third in the Majors among active players, trailing Yadier Molina (158) and Matt Wieters (140). Perez ranks seventh in franchise history in homers (152), ninth in extra-base hits (351), 10th in RBIs (535) and total bases (1,657) and tied for 10th in slugging percentage (.449). He’s coming off a 2020 season in which he was named American League Comeback Player of the Year after missing all of 2019 recovering from Tommy John surgery. He hit .333 with 11 homers and 32 RBIs over 37 games.

Beyond what he means to the Royals on the field, Perez means even more in the clubhouse and among his teammates. He’s a talented player, but he’s become a teacher, too, especially to the young catchers on the Royals roster.

“A lot has been said, but I don’t think even enough, about what this guy means to this clubhouse, means to this team,” Matheny said. “You sense his presence and you sense the lack of it, even in Spring Training on days he’s not in there. There’s just an energy, a life, a passion for the game that he just carries with him in everything he does. You mix that with a very unique talent, and you have something very special.

“When you have your best players who go out of their way to make other players better, you’re amplifying and multiplying what you have inside that room. That’s who Salvador Perez is. That’s, to me, what makes him so special. Those are things that never really make it into the statistics. But they are real, and he does it extremely well.”

The Royals have known for a long time that they wanted to keep him in Kansas City for as long as possible, Moore said, and he emphasized that Perez helped with that by wanting to stay a Royal. With his experience and production at a premium position, the Royals didn’t know if they’d be able to compete in a free-agent bidding war had Perez decided to test the market at the end of this season.

Moore sat down with Perez at the end of last season to make sure a contract extension was something Perez wanted to pursue before hitting free agency.

“Oftentimes, we don’t get the opportunity to sit here and announce the signing of a player like Salvador because of the economics of the game,” Moore said. “He’s earned the right to potentially become a free agent, and who knows how that would have unfolded. But I think it’s safe to say, when Salvador Perez becomes a free agent, maybe it’s a little more challenging for us to have him here in Kansas City. And Salvy wanted to be here in Kansas City. This is important for him because of our fans, because of the history here, because of his love and his passion for the Royals. It’s a big deal in a lot of ways.”

Perez was adamant on Sunday: He wants to be a Royal for life. And he doesn’t want this to be his final contract, either.

“I don’t ever want to retire from baseball,” Perez said. “Never. I don’t even think about that. I’m going to play, I told Dayton the other day, until God comes down and tells me, ‘Salvy, go home.’ I love baseball. I believe in myself, and this isn’t going to be the last one."