Pittsburgh Pirates injured backstop Roberto Pérez has expressed interest to return to the club in 2023, but should this be something the Pirates explore?
The Pittsburgh Pirates roster took a massive hit back in early May when backstop Roberto Pérez suffered a season-ending hamstring injury. Although Pérez would be out for the rest of the season, he showed a desire to return to Pittsburgh in 2023. His sentiments haven’t changed since then, according to beat reporter Justice Delos Santos:
When Pérez went on the injured list, he was providing a solid bat, hitting .233/.333/.367 with a .315 wOBA and 101 wRC+/98 OPS+. He was a top-hitting catcher at the time, ranking 6th in wRC+ and wOBA and 7th in OPS. Plus, he was providing elite-level defense. He already racked up +4 defensive runs saved, and +2.4 framing runs above average. Even though Perez has been out since May 7th, he’s still top 10 in defensive runs saved and top 15 in framing runs.
There was even a decent argument to be made that he could become better as the season went on. He had an exit velocity at 89.3 MPH, had a hard-hit rate of just over 50%, coming in at 51.4%, and had an expected wOBA of .324 (compared to his actual wOBA of .315). Pérez was silently putting together a high-quality season and was on pace for a 4+ fWAR season.
If the Pittsburgh Pirates were to re-sign Pérez, it likely wouldn’t be for very much, if a guaranteed deal at all. Pérez had injury questions going into this season already. Between 2020 and 2021, he played in just 34.2% of Cleveland’s contests.
The Pirates snagged him for $5 million this off-season. Not only does Perez come with injury questions, but he’s not getting any younger. Next season will be his age-34 campaign, which is quite old for a backstop. The aging curve is notoriously harsh to catchers because it’s the most physically demanding position.
But the upside in bringing back Pérez on a one-year deal worth $1-3 million or even a minor league contract can’t be understated. With Henry Davis coming up, it would be nice to have such a quality defender as a backup. Pérez could open 2023 as the starting catcher until Davis is ready and then serve as the backup and a great mentor for Davis when he arrives in the majors. The potential reward outweighs the risk associated with signing Roberto Perez to a one-year deal worth $3> million, or even a minor league deal.