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For most baseball fans, certain players stick out. They aren’t hard to find, as they stand out as having a certain ‘it’ about them and it’s fairly obvious to point out when it is right in front of your eyes. Having ‘it’ basically means a player moves like he was born to play this game, whether it be running the bases, throwing a ball or vaporizing a pitch into the upper reaches of the bleachers. Then there are those players that have the look and feel of a leader, just by how they carry themselves. It was pretty obvious from day one that Salvador Perez was one of those leaders, a catcher who was the field general in every sense of the word. Early on in his career Royals management felt the same and locked him into a very team-friendly deal that gave Salvy a commitment and made it to where all he had to worry about was his play on the diamond. It was soon evident that this deal was below market value and the deal was almost a ‘steal’ for Kansas City. The rumblings this winter were that Perez and the Royals were trying to restructure a new deal that would compensate Perez while also extending the contract further into the future. The deal was finally struck on Wednesday, as Salvy looks to now be a Royal through the 2021 season.

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The new, restructured deal for Perez will start in 2017 and will keep him in Royal blue through his age 31 season:

Perez will be making a very team-friendly $2M this year, $3M in ’17, $7.5M in ’18, $10M in ’19; $13M in ’20-21. Curious about any options, since we all know Dayton Moore loves him some mutual options?

Add in a $6M bonus and the Royals showed Perez how much he is appreciated by the organization and restructured a contract that technically they didn’t have to do. This deal is a message to the nucleus of the Royals that will be eligible for free agency after the 2017 season: if you work with us and stay loyal, we will stay loyal to you. The deal makes sense for the team, as Salvy is a fan favorite, the on-field leader, gold glover and possibly even leader of the pitching staff. Perez’s true value is in his defense, as he is considered one of the top catchers in the game, a perennial All-Star who is not only an agile defender, but knows his pitching staff in and out. Add in the pop in his bat(a career high in home runs in 2015) and you have the makings of a future Royals Hall of Famer, a player who will probably receive a statue and his number retired once his career is over. If you meet a Royals fan that doesn’t love Salvy, then that person isn’t really a Royals fan. But the question has to be asked, a question I even hate mentioning because of the high status of Perez with Kansas City: Will Perez still be playing catcher by the end of this contract?

Division Series - Kansas City Royals v Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim - Game Two
(Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

This is an honest question that needs to be asked, because Perez’s workload over the last few seasons has been, well, ridiculous. In fact, Perez has caught more innings than any other catcher in baseball over the last three seasons:

As the tweet above from Craig says, this does not even include postseason totals, or the innings Perez caught at the end of the 2014 season when he was part of an all-star team that did a tour of Japan. That is a lot of innings for any catcher, yet alone one who has had a knee surgery. Perez is easily one of the most durable catchers in baseball and that has shown by looking at the game totals for him since 2013, where he played the fewest games at 138. The bad thing is that I have been saying for years that the Royals need to give Salvy a lot more rest than they give him. I talked about it as far back as 2013 and my opinion hasn’t changed since then. Now that the Royals have made a long-term investment in Perez, they need to treat him as such. That means Perez should get a break once a week and I mean a real break, where he doesn’t come into the game once the Royals get into the later innings. Over the years we have seen many a catcher break down from their overuse behind the dish and that has also limited their productivity. In fact, we probably have already seen the beginning of this decline.

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Back in 2011, everyone was surprised at how well Perez hit during his first stint in the big leagues, posting a line of .331/.361/.473 while putting up an OPS+ of 128. The thought at the time was that maybe Perez would be a better hitter than first thought. Since then he has been on a gradual decline, putting up an OPS+ the last two years of 91 and 89. His home run total reached a new high in 2015, but almost every other offensive stat saw a dip. It is very well known throughout baseball that Perez swings at almost everything, as Salvy was one of the leaders in swinging at pitches outside of the strike zone and had the lowest walk rate in the league. Is there a correlation between the amount of games played and the decline in his offensive stats? There is no way to 100% know for sure if there is, but one has to think so. Perez will probably never be a league leader in walks, but one wonders if he is able to get regular rest if that means some of his numbers will see an upward trajectory.

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The other note of interest with Perez’s offense concerns him being able to stay healthy. If he isn’t able to stay healthy, the Royals at some point will have to consider moving Perez to a different position, especially if they feel that crouching behind the plate on a regular basis is hurting his health. So if Salvy moves to another position, is he going to produce enough offense to warrant not only the money he is being paid but also the playing time he will receive? This is an easy answer right now, since what he brings to the table as a catcher outweighs the lack of productivity with his bat. But once he is unable to wear the shin guards, it is highly questionable that his bat will produce enough to warrant a place in the starting lineup. It’s not fun to broach this subject, but it is something Kansas City management has to take into consideration and probably did before they signed him to this new contract. In some ways, yes, he will have earned that spot just because of what he has done the last few years for the Royals. But if his offense continues to decline at the current rate, he could be hurting the team more than helping.

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Overall, this is about as positive a signing as the Royals could have, one that could benefit the team for years to come in many facets of the team. If anything, Royals management has shown a commitment to their players in a way that many organizations have ceased doing for years now. What this contract does is put Perez in the forefront of Kansas City’s plans past 2017 and into the next decade. To show this isn’t just about the money, Perez has shown himself to be a classy guy as well:

It’s kind of hard not to root for this guy. He is the real deal and probably will go down as one of the top five Royals of all-time. Yes, that is a lofty prediction but one that Perez is more than capable of upholding. More than anything, the message from this signing is that loyalty is rewarded with loyalty.

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