Thursday, September 18, 2008

Free Agent at the End of the Season: Oliver Perez

No pitcher..err player has frustrated me more than Oliver Perez has during these past two seasons. When he's on, he's as good as anyone, but when he's not, its ugly. Case in point: I have been to multiple games where Perez has pitched. I have seen Oliver pitch great games at the biggest moments (vs. Yankees) and I have seen him look like he has never thrown a baseball before in his life. You never know what your gonna get from this guy. (Note: Oliver...we need you. If you deliver down the stretch, I will be forever greatful). Even with his inconsistency, I know that some team will pay Oliver tons of money at the end of this season because hey, if Gil Meche can get $55 million dollars, then why can't Oliver?

The Case for Perez
He's left handed.
Finding a stud starting pitcher is hard enough, but when he is left handed, teams go ga-ga for it. I have seen Oliver Perez single handedly take away the best hitters in a team's lineup because no one wants to play lefties against him. Lefties are only hitting .150 against him this season and I have seen more than my fair share of horrible swings against Perez from the left side. If the Mets and Phillies are forced to play game 163, I would feel very confident that Perez could shut down Howard and Utley. That's high praise.

The K's!
Perez strikes out just under one per inning (162 K in 178 IP), which expresses how dominant Perez can be when he is on. Teams value guys who have the ability to strike out hitters because it completely eliminates the chance of an error or a dinky hit. Armed with a dominant fastball and an absolutely filthy slider, Perez is your classic left handed strikeout artist. He could easily strike out 8-10 guys per game. All he needs to do is maintain control. Teams always seem to overpay for guys who can get the strikeouts en masse and Perez should be no different.

He's a youngin.
Even though Ollie has been around for the past six seasons, Perez will only be 27 on opening day next season. Most 27 year olds do not become free agents because they lack the service time, which makes Perez even more valuable. As a GM, you know that if you sign Perez, you will have him during his "prime". That alone could make Perez one of the most coveted free agent pitchers.

The Case against Perez
The Walks.
Oh boy...Ollie and his walks. There are times when Ollie looks like he is cruising and then he will mysteriously lose it and walk two or three guys in a row. And then there are other nights where Perez simply doesn't have it and will walk six or seven. You never know with Perez, who has walked a horrific 94 guys this season. Anywhere close to 100 is unacceptable for a major league pitcher. But Perez's stuff is so good that he is still able to maintain a 1.37 WHIP.

He's been really bad.
Coming into 2005, Oliver Perez was looking like he was on his way to becoming one of the best left handed starters in baseball. After having a fantastic 2004, Perez was looking to maintain his success by having another quality season with the Pirates. However, Perez floundered badly in 2005. He wound up with a 5.58 ERA in only 20 starts before being demoted to the minors. To make matters worse, Perez continued his struggles into 2006 by posting a 6.55 ERA before being turned around by Mets pitching coach Rick Peterson. Any GM who signs Ollie has to acknowledge his history and not be caught off guard if Perez flounders.

The longball.
In addition to his wildness, Oliver Perez will give up his fair share of home runs. Part of that is because of his aggressiveness, but Perez does have a tendency to live up in the zone. I'm not saying to avoid Perez because of this, but if I don't think that the Astros or Phillies (teams with really small parks) should make a push for Perez.

CC Sabathia and Ben Sheets are Perez's prime competition. However, teams will be scared away by Sabathia's price tag and others will shy away from Sheets because of the injury concerns. So Perez could actually wind up becoming the lower cost option to either one of those guys and given his age and ability, he should have no problem developing a market.

(5 years/$60 million)

Despite his inconsistency, Perez will get his loot from someone. His agent, Scott Boras, is a master of getting two teams to compete against each other so I expect him to do his best to develop a strong market for Ollie. If I were Boras I would say, "how many 27 year old ace lefties are out there on the market right now?" After that, I would see who bites. Because quite honestly, there are no other guys that combine both Perez's ability and age on the free agent market. With that said, I don' think the Mets will make a strong play for Ollie. Boras should look at the following contracts:

Gil Meche (5 years/$55 mil)
Kevin Millwood (5 years/$60 mil)
AJ Burnett (5 years/$55 mil)

To me, Perez is better than all three of those guys. None of them strike me as #1's, but they are good #2s, which is where I think Perez is. And for all of you who think that pitchers no longer get long term contracts, welcome to 2008.
Wherever he lands, Oliver Perez has been a fun/interesting/frustrating Met to follow and I wish him the best of luck. But before you go Ollie, pitch us into the playoffs, por favor!

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