When the Mets acquired left-hander Oliver Perez in a trade with the Pirates at the 2006 trade deadline, they thought they were getting a top-of-the-rotation pitcher. Five tumultuous seasons later, Perez’s tenure as a Met was meekly ended during spring training prior to the 2011 season having compiled a 4.71 ERA over 520 innings in New York. Since then, Perez toiled in the Minors with the Nationals in 2011, and with the Mariners in the first half of 2012.
The Mariners, though, did something the Mets and Nationals did not — they converted Perez to a reliever. With Triple-A Tacoma last year, Perez posted a 4.65 ERA in 31 innings. He struggled with control, walking 19, but also rediscovered his swing-and-miss stuff, striking out 42 batters. He was promoted to the Majors in mid-June last year. Between June 18 and the end of the regular season, he posted a 2.12 ERA in 29.2 innings with 24 strikeouts and 10 walks.
Somehow, Perez has been even better this year. In 24.1 innings, the 31-year-old has a 1.11 ERA with 33 strikeouts and 12 walks. He earned the first save of his 12-year career last night, shutting the door on the Athletics in the bottom of the ninth for a 3-2 victory.
Perez’s success has to be in the back of the mind of any team that is considering going after Tim Lincecum in free agency. Lincecum has continued to struggle as a starter, but prospered out of the Giants’ bullpen in the post-season last year. Future Hall of Famer John Smoltz, who performed well in both roles, thinks Lincecum has a future as a reliever.
If Oliver Perez can do it, why can’t Tim Lincecum?
Update (7:01 PM EDT): David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports the deal has been completed.
ESPN’s Keith Law reported on Saturday evening that a bad contract swap involving the Braves’ Hector Olivera and the Padres’ Matt Kemp was “getting close.” Olivera has been pulled off the field, per Bob Nightengale of USA TODAY. Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports that only a last-second medical would kill the deal at this point, and that the Padres will be sending money to the Braves.
Kemp, 31, will have $64.5 million remaining on his contract through 2019 after this season, but the Dodgers will pay $3.5 million annually over those remaining three years, so the $64.5 million is really $54 million. The veteran has compiled a .262/.285/.489 triple-slash line with 23 home runs and 69 RBI in 431 plate appearances for the Padres this season.
Olivera, 31, will have $28.5 million remaining on his contract through 2020 after this season. The outfielder was handed an 82-game suspension, beginning on May 26, for his involvement in a domestic dispute on April 13. The suspension is up on August 2. He has a .501 OPS in 21 major league at-bats this season and a .278 OPS in 37 PA at Triple-A.
Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune reports that the Padres will consider designating Olivera for assignment. The trade is all about the salary dump for the Padres, as they’d rather give outfield playing time to prospects Hunter Renfroe and Manuel Margot.
The Athletics and Royals swapped outfielders on Saturday. The Athletics sent Billy Burns to Kansas City and the Royals sent Brett Eibner to Oakland.
Burns, 26, doesn’t provide much in the way of offense, but he runs the bases well and plays solid defense. He was hitting .234/.270/.303 with 11 doubles, four triples, and 14 stolen bases in 274 plate appearances.
Eibner, 27, was batting .231/.286/.423 with three home runs and 10 RBI in 85 plate appearances. He has spent most of the season with Triple-A Omaha, where he’s put up a .902 OPS in 219 PA. Eibner played the outfield corners in the majors, but racked up a ton of time playing center in the minors, so his versatility will be valuable to the A’s.
Burns will become eligible for arbitration for the first time after the 2017 season while Eibner has hardly accrued any service time, which might explain part of the motivation behind the trade for the small-market Athletics.