The off-season is officially here! Martin Perez will file for free agency this week and officially be able to sign with other teams as of Thursday at 4pm. The Texas Rangers also have until that exact time to extend a qualifying offer to Perez. There will be time to discuss the multitude of moves that the Rangers will be making this off-season.
Lets focus on Martin Perez as it is the one issue that will be resolved in one of two ways in the next nine days.
The Texas Rangers and his representatives have been in talks since the end of the season. . According to Jeff Wilson of Rangers Today (subscription required), talks are ongoing and Perez is seeking a “three year deal at around 40 million “. It sounds reasonable enough after the year Perez had for the Rangers. He went 12-8, with a career-low ERA of 2.89, 23 quality starts, and one memorable complete game shutout of the Houston Astros.
Why wouldn’t the Rangers jump all over that? Why would a team take a chance with their best starter from this past season and let him test free agency? Chris Young said this in the post trade deadline press-conference:
".“Most importantly, we have an exclusive opportunity to negotiate an extension, should that be an avenue that we can find some common ground (on) with both players”"
The Texas Rangers and Martin Perez are struggling to find common ground on a contract
The question could be asked did they use this time wisely? There were apparently talks prior to the deadline. Then after Jon Daniels was fired, it seemed like talks shut down until after the season ended. So they ultimately had three months from the August 2nd trade deadline to the November 10th start of free agency and at this point it appears that there will not be a long term extension for Perez unless something changes between now and Thursday.
It seems like with a week to go they have shifted and are now content to give Perez the qualifying offer of 19.65 million and see if he accepts. Why would they take this strategy with a player who has been vocal about his desire to stay here? Martin Perez came here after the lockout and took less than what other teams were offering to join a 102-loss team. He excelled here having the best season of his career and is looking to get paid. The Rangers are seemingly willingly to overpay Perez for one year rather than paying him more over a three year period.
In my opinion, the Rangers are betting on their minor league pitching depth developing in 2023. Rather than paying 40 million they will end up paying 19.65 million and then will hand that spot over to someone making the major league minimum in 2024. They are likely looking at adding two pitchers this off-season. Perez would then be the number four starter with likely Dunning being number 5. They then replace Perez with Owen White, Jack Leiter, or Cole Winn and let them develop in the number 5 spot.
The Rangers have had their issues developing pitching. Pitching in the upper minors really struggled this past season. Cole Winn had the worst season of his career, Jack Leiter really was inconsistent all season, Cody Bradford did not hit his stride until August, Jake Latz and A.J. Alexy were moved to the bullpen because of their early season struggles.
The only upper minors true success story was Owen White. He excelled when he was out there, but the missed a large chunk of the season from August until late September. They are counting on some of these same pitchers to perform much better in 2023 and show themselves to be ready by 2024. If they are then this decision has a chance to work out.
Martin Perez will get rewarded if he chooses to accept the qualifying offer. 19.65 million will be the largest single season contract he has signed. The QO has been around since the 2012 off-season. In that time only 11 players have accepted the qualifying offer. 72 players have rejected and ended up signing elsewhere. 26 players rejected but ended up signing a contract with the team that offered them the QO.
If Perez is given the qualifying offer, he will have until November 20th at 4pm to accept. He has to weigh the salary over long-term security. If he rejects the QO the Rangers and Perez will probably both move on. Later on in the off-season, if the Rangers have not found a suitable replacement or if Perez has not found a good enough situation, both sides might reengage talks and see if they can find common ground at that time.
I loved watching Martin Perez in this stint with the Rangers. He was a delight to watch nearly every time out. The shutout and then him presenting the ball to Tony Beasley were among my favorite moments of the season. I hope that come 2023, he is suiting up in a Rangers uniform. We will know at the latest by Thursday at 4pm which direction this is going to go.