MLB: Tampa Bay Rays at Texas Rangers

The Texas Rangers wasted no time in extending pitcher Martin Perez yesterday, signing a four-year deal with three contract options on the tail end, possibly keeping the 22-year old lefty with Texas through 2020 for a total value near $32 million.

Great news for the team and great news for the player, as Perez was able to translate less than one full season of solid results at the big league level into financial security for a lifetime. Those looking to assess winners and losers to every deal before the ink dries love this contract for the Rangers, as it gives them incredible cost certainty on a player with a high ceiling and low floor.

What We Know About Martin Perez

Martin Perez was once a highly prized prospect, racing through the Rangers system as a teenager. Perez featured prominently on all top 100 prospect lists after his age-18 season, reaching double-A as a young starter. After making big strides at the low minors, Perez stalled in the upper levels, precipitating a tumble down the prospect lists (from the mid-20s to the 90s ahead of the 2013 season).

The classic post-hype sleeper contributed to the Rangers 2013 playoff push, allowing fewer than four runs per nine innings despite below-average strikeout rates. Perez showed promising control, fighting back against the dreaded base on balls that plagued him during his minor league years in the wilderness.

The left-hander throws four/five pitches, opting for four seam/two seam/change/breaking ball approach, sprinkling in a curveball as he sees fit. Most of his swinging strikes come courtesy of that change up.

Courtesy of Brooks Baseball

Courtesy of Brooks Baseball

We know that a young pitcher with good minor league pedigree posted good results at the big league level. He sports a very good changeup and two breaking pitches. He’s young and smallish for starting pitcher but the Rangers are betting he can hold down a spot in the back half of their rotation.

What We Don’t Know About Martin Perez

We don’t know if Martin Perez will retain the ability to throw strikes. Contract-wise, Martin Perez reminds many of Wade Davis but what about, Ricky Romero. Romero is a changeup specialist who struggled in the minor leagues with his control. Until, one day, his struggles were over! And Romero was good for three years, making an All Star team and even grabbing a Cy Young vote.

And then Ricky Romero went to pieces. He lost the ability to throw strikes and the ability to keep the ball in the stadium. Romero’s reverse splits and “confidence issues” overwhelmed the positive aspects of his game, all after the Blue Jays locked Romero up with an option-heavy contract worth a lot more money than Perez’s extension with Texas.

On one had, the Rangers would take the same 10 rWAR Romero gave Toronto from Perez and likely run away laughing. 10 wins for $22 million guaranteed dollars? Yes, please. But why not just let Perez cruise through arbitration rather than signing this deal?

The Rangers have far more insight and expectation for Perez’s future than a lazy comp to another 6′ changeup throwing lefty who struggled at times in the mid-minors. But the big league book on Martin Perez is only 26 starts long, a lot could happen between now and the first club option on his deal.

What We Know About the Rangers

They have money – lots of it. There is an increasing trend towards actively seeking out places to spend their extra cash, since they’re hard-pressed to so via normal channels. Guaranteeing Perez this money now gives him piece of mind and financial security to move his family out of Venezuela, which can only limit the distractions and obstacles to Perez continuing his development.

The Rangers are big time players on the international market and desperate looking for the final piece to push their club back over the hump and into the World Series. Locking up a crucial non-star pitcher allows them to flex their financial muscle, seeking higher-end arms to pair with Yu Darvish.

Making good by a guy who signed as a teenager probably feels pretty good for the organization, not that touchy-feely flutters trump on-field production. It certainly sends a nice message to the troops.

Also, the tremendous cost-certainty now associated with Martin Perez makes him an even more valuable trade chip. Perez’s name was attached to just about every dubious Rangers trade rumor for months and this deal does nothing to change that. Perez’s cheap deal means that even if he performers to his 90% percentile projections, his arb rewards won’t break the bank of a cheapo team looking to consider their cycle of controllable talent.

Win-win for the Rangers, who are rich enough to comfortably eat the guaranteed dollars on this deal even if things go south quickly.

What We Don’t Know About the Future

Anything! Insightful, I know. But this is the risk part of the equation. The Rangers protected themselves from much risk, loading the deal with options to keep it from going terribly as well as keeping the costs down if Perez fires on all cylinders. Perez risks missing out on potential future earnings by staving off free agency for an extra year or two but also gets money in his pocket now.

It works for both sides. What Martin Perez is now and might become greatly alters the perception of who wins out in this deal. Let’s walk the line and say “everybody.” How’s that for a hot take?!