For a long time, Tampa Bay 3B Evan Longoria’s contract was considered “the best in baseball,” due to his outstanding play and how cheap the contract was. However, Longoria’s contract is about to get expensive, and the title may soon pass him. Which brings up the question of whether Salvador Perez may soon have this distinction.
Over the next seven years, assuming all of the club options on the back end are exercised, Perez will make $21 million, which averages out to $3 million per year. Obviously, that’s a bargain even if Perez was simply an average player. However, over the course of his first 113 Major League games, his “WAR,” per FanGraphs, is 4.0. It goes without saying that is a terrific number. Assuming he plays around 140 games as most top shelf catchers do, that ends up being about 5.0 over the course of a full season. By “WAR,” that would put him tied for fourth among catchers in 2012, and tied for second in 2011.
For a comparison, let’s look at a few other good contracts out there, starting with the aforementioned Evan Longoria. He will make $36 million over the next four years, averaging out to $9 million per year. Once again, that’s certainly a bargain for a player of that type. Over the first five years of his career, he averaged about 5.9 “WAR” per year.
Another player that belongs in the conversation is Andrew McCutchen, the CF for the Pirates. He is scheduled to make $63.25 million over the next six years. McCutchen has gotten better every year of his career, topping out at 7.4 “WAR” in 2012. His batting average on balls in play was pretty high in 2012 so it appears that’s about the upper limit of his talent — but he is still very good.
The last position player I will mention is Ryan Braun. Naturally, it is hard to consider a guy with a $100 million contract a great value. However, it’s not absurd to mention him in this situation. If Braun’s option is picked up at the back end of his deal, he’ll make $142.5 million over the next nine years, which amounts to $15.8 million per year. Now that’s a lot of money, but over the last two seasons, Braun leads baseball in “WAR” at 15.6. So despite the money, he is worthy of a huge contract and then some.
There is one pitcher that should be included, and that is Matt Moore of the Rays. In his first full season, Moore logged a 2.3 “WAR,” which is solid if unspectacular. However, he was recently the top pitching prospect in the game, and most project him to get better with age. He’ll make $36 million over the next seven years if all his options are exercised. Like Perez, this is a fantastic deal even if he doesn’t get better. That said, as a pitcher (and why Moore is the only pitcher I have listed), he is one pitch away from perhaps having a not so favorable deal. Pitchers break down more, it’s that simple.
There are certainly more players who have favorable contracts, but I believe these are among the best. As I mentioned with Moore, these players need to stay healthy (especially in the case of Braun, who is guaranteed over $130 million) to retain the great value in these contracts.
Back to Perez — is his the best? Maybe, maybe not. It’s an opinion and not something we will know with any certainty until the situation has played out. How did Perez get such a favorable contract anyways? Well his excellent start to his career in 2011 didn’t hurt, neither did the team’s high opinion of him even when he was putting up poor numbers in the low levels of the minor leagues. It’s also easy to surmise that Perez’s agent underestimated just how good he was and didn’t push for more, which is fair because Perez was not a high profile prospect, and the player probably wanted the security to help out himself and his family back in Venezuela.
Whatever the reason, the Royals have a heck of a player on a heck of a contract. That contract should be considered among the best bargains in the game, if not the best.