Jon Heyman of MLB Network reports that Tommy John surgery has been recommended to Royals catcher Salvador Pérez, who will undergo the surgery sometime in the following week. As noted earlier today, Pérez sustained an ulnar collateral ligament injury in his right elbow while working out with the team on Wednesday, though the extent of the damage and the length of Pérez’s recovery process had yet to be revealed.
It’s a huge blow for the 28-year-old catcher, who won’t be cleared to play again until the 2020 season. Pérez has been a mainstay of the Royals’ roster for the past six years after catching a cumulative 761 games behind the plate and turning in six consecutive All-Star performances. In 2018, he shared catching duties with Drew Butera and Cam Gallagher while rehabbing a freak knee injury, and finished the season batting .235/.274/.439 with 27 home runs, a .713 OPS, and 1.7 fWAR through 544 plate appearances.
The Royals have yet to confirm news of Pérez’s surgery, and it’s still possible that the catcher may elect non-surgical rehab after receiving a second opinion. According to comments made by manager Ned Yost on Friday, any final decision will likely be put off until Wednesday. That’s when Pérez is scheduled to fly to Los Angeles, presumably to discuss the matter with Dr. Neal ElAttrache.
In the event that Pérez’s 2019 season is indeed lost to injury — something Yost and club trainer Nick Kenney classified as ligament “damage,” rather than a more serious tear — Heyman adds that the club may have a replacement lined up in free agent backstop Martín Maldonado, with whom they’ve allegedly already had contact this offseason.
Update, 3/2: Both Moore and Kenney contradicted Friday’s report, telling reporters Saturday that “there has been no recommendation of surgery” (via MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan). Even without surgery, however, it looks like the club will still be taking every precaution with their All-Star catcher and leaning on the tandem talents of Gallagher and Meibrys Viloria until Pérez is back to 100 percent.