MLB Trade Rumors: Martin Perez has been great for the Texas Rangers this year, and on a one year, $4 million contract, he’s been talked about as one of the best available trade targets for teams looking to add starting pitching at the trade deadline.
Per Buster Olney, however, the Rangers will “probably only move him” at the deadline at the end of this month if they get a “difference-making” return, citing the Rangers’ desire to show significant improvement this year after 2021’s 102 loss season.
This is not all that surprising, I don’t think. The Rangers have made clear that they are not in tear-down rebuilding mode — that while they did not enter the season expecting to be a playoff contender, they wanted to show significant improvement, and have at least a respectable season that they can build on for 2023. The Rangers aren’t going to necessarily be buyers, but I suspect internally the organization is striving for a winning season, and so dealing free-agents-to-be for whatever they might be able to get isn’t something I see them doing.
Perez has been terrific this year — he’s leading the American League in innings, with 100, and is tied for the lead in starts, with 16. He has a 2.34 ERA, which is 4th in the A.L., and is third in the A.L. among pitchers in bWAR, at 3.0. Perez’s peripherals support the notion this is the product of real improvement, as he has an xERA of 3.15 on the year and a 2.86 FIP. Prior to his start yesterday, the broadcast noted that Perez had the highest percentage of pitches this season that had hit the “edge” of the zone — that borderline where the pitch is a strike, or is close to a strike, but where a hitter generally isn’t going to be able to make really good contact.
So it isn’t as if Perez is just getting lucky, or is doing this with smoke and mirrors. He’s pitched really well in 2022. The issue the Rangers have, however, in seeking to trade him, is that other teams are going to be valuing him based on what they project him to do for the rest of 2022 — and while that projection is almost certainly better than what they projected him to be prior to 2021, it isn’t likely to be close to what he has done this year. A team that is acquiring Perez in July would likely be doing so because they want an inexpensive inning eater who is going to round out rather than lead a potential playoff rotation. They are wanting someone to take the ball every fifth day, keep the team in the game, and possibly start the fourth game of a playoff series.
That is not the type of profile that a team is going to give up a big package for at the trade deadline. The Rangers would get something decent for Perez, no doubt — but not a top 100 prospect, or even someone likely to land in the team’s organizational top 10 prospects.
And if that is the case, one can understand why the Rangers would want to hang on to Perez rather than deal him. They are still on the fringes of the playoff race. They are trying to finish strong. There appears to be mutual interest in continuing the relationship between team and player beyond 2022.
And even in 2022, the Rangers are in need of starting pitching. We have, after all, been discussing the possibility, if the Rangers hang in the race this month, of the Rangers looking on the trade market for a rental starting pitcher — not someone flashy or expensive, not someone who would head up the rotation, but just a reliable innings eater who can keep the team in games. Someone like Martin Perez, in fact.
But even if the Rangers fall from the race, even if the Wild Card looks out of reach come late July, it doesn’t change the fact that the Rangers need starting pitchers right now. As things stand, Taylor Hearn has been dropped from the rotation and sent to AAA. Glenn Otto is still in the rotation for now, but largely because of a lack of other viable options. Spencer Howard, who lost his rotation spot in April, appears to be coming back up to get it another go, but even if Howard is okay, the Rangers still have a hole in their rotation.
Dealing Perez would mean the Rangers would have another hole in the rotation that they would need to patch over for the final two months. Having to spend August and September scrambling to figure out what to do when it isn’t Jon Gray or Dane Dunning taking the mound, having to ask guys who aren’t ready or who have shown they aren’t good enough to go out there and take one for the team and try to make it through four or five innings, isn’t a good strategy. Making that situation worse so you can add someone who would slot in at #19 in the Rangers’ prospect list is not, I don’t think, a great idea.