Oliver Perez recently expressed an interest in returning to the Mets in 2011. Even though the team will have to pay him $12 million next year one way or another, they should tell Perez, “No thanks.”
Perez is in the second year of what has become an abomination of a contract for the Mets. Since being signed to a three-year, $36 million deal following the 2008 season, Perez has gone 3-8 with a 6.79 ERA and has issued two more walks (97) than strikeouts recorded (95) in 110 innings. Making his first appearance for the Mets in over four weeks on Monday night, Perez promptly served up a home run to Brian McCann leading off the bottom of the seventh inning.
The Mets, who are not playoff contenders with a little over a month left in the season, were down by five runs before Perez took the mound. It’s hard to create a more pressure-free scenario than that. Still, Perez labored through his inning, throwing more balls (15) than strikes (14) and walking two batters in addition to surrendering McCann’s homer. At this point, one has to wonder if having Perez around would do the Mets more harm than good.
While bidding farewell to Perez after the 2010 season would translate to one hefty severance package for the lefthander, it would be the right move for the Mets. Manager Jerry Manuel has no confidence in Perez, who has been reduced to a mopup role since being removed from the rotation in mid-May. Perez, who can refuse being sent to the minor leagues, was placed on the disabled list with a mysterious knee injury after closing out an 18-6 thrashing at the hands of the San Diego Padres on May 31. No doubt, the Mets were using the ensuing rehabilitation assignment to see if Perez could figure things out in the minors. While he did post a 3.47 ERA in four “rehab” starts between Single A and Triple A, success has not translated to the majors. In four outings since returning, Perez has allowed six earned runs and six walks in 5 1/3 innings.
Wildness has been a recurring problem for Perez, who led the majors in walks allowed (105) before signing his now infamous deal. Complicating matters has been a drop in fastball velocity that was evident even in 2008. According to FanGraphs.com, Perez had an average fastball velocity of 93 miles per hour during his breakout 2004 season with the Pittsburgh Pirates. It was down to 91.2 mph in 2008, and Perez since has experienced a further decrease in average velocity to 88.1 mph this year. Relying on his changeup more than ever before, Perez has produced an unsightly WHIP of 2.045 this season.
If the Mets do cut bait on Perez despite the obscene amount of money they owe him, the move would not be unprecedented. In fact, the Mets were beneficiaries in the most recent release of a player owed at least that much money in the final year of his contract. On March 31, 2009, the Detroit Tigers sent Gary Sheffield packing despite being on the hook for his $14 million salary that season. Sheffield, who was at odds with the Tigers about being relegated to being the team’s designated hitter, signed with the Mets five days later.
Sheffield tied for second on the Mets with 10 homers, including the 500th of his career on April 17, in 2009. The only financial burden on the Mets was league minimum salary, an opportunity – if you want to call it that – the team should pay forward with Perez. Considering that Perez has not won a game for the Mets since August 18, 2009 – the same day Sheffield produced his final two RBI for the organization – and the team has a 1-14 record in games during which he has appeared this season, wouldn’t the Mets have a better chance of winning with Perez pitching against them than for them?