Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Oliver Perez, a Confession and a Plan

You're not going to hear me say this a lot, everyone, so enjoy this.

I was wrong.

I was totally wrong on Oliver Perez, and it's finally become time for me to admit it. The guy can't get anyone out. There is no role for him. He's worse than a replacement reliever that we could dredge out of the minors. It's over.

I started with this in the preseason:
An impartial look at the facts points at one inevitable conclusion: between Perez, Pelfrey, and Maine, Oliver Perez is the best bet to deliver a great pitching performance in 2010.
It wasn't total nonsense -- it was based on the premise that Oliver Perez was injured in 2009
We start with what we know - or what we assume to be true.

1. He was injured in 2009, so he is not going to be that bad again.
2. His best year, in 2004, was way too long ago, and there is no reason to think he’ll be that good again.
3. In 2007 and 2008, spanning 371 innings, he pitched as well as the average #2 starter.
4. He is lefthanded, and has a fastball and a slider which both grade out as above-average pitches.
5. He will only be 28 this year.

That last fact is probably the most surprising -- who would have guessed that Oliver Perez was only 28? Doesn't it seem like he has been around forever?
Alright, so that was bad. But I certainly learned my lesson when he started out this season pitching terribly, right? Well, my early June discussion of sunk cost seems to refute that principle as well:
It was impossible to predict his knee injury and subsequent loss of velocity. The main problem is, in fact, the fact that nobody really knows who this guy is anymore, or what he is capable of, or whether he will ever round back into form. The bottom line, however, is this: Perez was once a good pitcher, is young, and has the talent to be a serviceable player again in the future.
* * *
I do believe, and I truly hope, that the Mets are holding on to Perez because they correctly view his contract as a sunk cost and that it doesn't matter what he is earning -- all that matters that he has an ability to put it all together and throw a baseball better than all but a few dozen people on the planet.
* * *
We are on the hook for the money no matter what, so all Perez needs to do is prove that he'll be able to pitch better than Elmer Dessens, or Raul Valdez, or whoever the last man on the roster will be.
It appears that ship has sailed.

I don't usually subscribe to the theory that a team can make some sort of grand gesture and turn things around. I don't generally believe that 'change for change's sake' is a good philosophy. I've also never heard of a player in the Mets clubhouse ever complain about Perez - in fact, he appears to be well-liked.

But he's got to go. He's got to. He can't be on this team anymore. At a certain point, you need to get beyond the X's and O's and the utilitarian view of the dollars and just be real. His presence on this team makes basically every single fan have an nervous breakdown.

Here's what I'd suggest, if possible, seeing that Ollie is making $12 million next year and around $4 million for the rest of this year.

1) Find a team in the doldrums. A team that sucks. A team desperate for a starter. The Royals, the Astros, the Diamondbacks - some team which is in a position to try and catch lightning in a bottle.

2) Trade them Oliver Perez and either:

a) $12 million dollars, so that his effective cost to them is only $4 million for a year and a half.

b) $14 million dollars and acquire a useful reliever (i.e. Robinson Tejeda, Esmerling Vazquez or Sam Demel)


c) $10 million dollars and a reliever with a bad contract (i.e. Kyle Farnsworth)

Either way, we need to defray or otherwise try to make useful the money we are paying to Perez. If he has use - any use at all - to any other team, then we should ship him out and get what we can. Heck, if we can just ship him out and pay 100% of his contract in exchange for a useful part, it's worth it.

There may still be a way to make lemonade out of this lemon. But what the Mets cannot do right now is let him sit on the roster, pitch in a really ineffective role, and infuriate the entire fan base. As a starter, he might have some value as a replacement-level guy -- but he can't do that on a team with dreams of contention this year.

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