It was rather puzzling this off-season when the Chicago Cubs front office non-tendered Wesley Wright and made no effort to sign a left-hander in free agency. Instead, the team decided to attempt the role with high upside young arms from within their system or off the scrap heap from other teams. It wasn’t until the end of Spring Training, when the Atlanta Braves released James Russell and he was brought up in May that they filled one of the roles. With Travis Wood and Zac Rosscup, still struggling to find consistency, it’s clear that the Cubs need another lefty they can rely on.
With the front office making no secret that the Cubs plan to be buyers on the trade market for relief help, Oliver Perez of the Arizona Diamondbacks has been a name reported as a possibility. Let’s take a look at what acquiring him may take.
At 33 years old and with 13 years of experience in the majors, Oliver Perez is relatively new to relief converting over back in 2010 after a variety of injuries and ineffectiveness forced him to make the change. In 201 games, Perez has an 8-13 record, 3.69 ERA, 1.41 WHIP and 208 strikeouts in 173.1 innings. With those numbers, it’s clear to see that the switch from starter to reliever ultimately extended his career. Perez hasn’t been nearly as reliable this season though with a 5.00 ERA in 17 games pitched. His FIP at 3.89 suggests he’s been a little unlucky and it’s encouraging that his K/9 sits at 10.4 and his batting average against lefties is a decent .222. Perez is finishing out a two-year deal and is owed $2.5 million for this season, so his struggles coupled with his salary might make him cheap to acquire.
Matt Thornton’s trade from the White Sox to the Boston Red Sox in 2013 is a great example for determining Perez’s value.
Like Perez, Thornton’s season was rather inconsistent and not living up to the contract he had signed. At 35, it was debatable if Matt Thornton had much left, but his past history made it worth the Red Sox taking a flier on him. The gamble paid off and the Red Sox ended up winning the World Series and only gave up OF Brandon Jacobs, who was a top 15 prospect with some power, but inconsistent contact.
Other lefty deals that are in the same vein to consider are trades for Troy Patton and Jerry Blevins. Patton was traded last May from the Baltimore Orioles to the San Diego Padres for C Nick Hundley and cash. The Orioles’ bullpen was pretty well set and Patton was an odd man out thanks to a 25-game suspension for drug use and an 8.10 ERA in nine games. Prior success made this an easy buy low situation for the Padres and a chance to get rid of Hundley, who was owed $3 million that season, had lost his job to two young catchers.
The Blevins deal sent him from the Washington Nationals to the New York Mets for OF Matt den Dekker. Blevins had actually just been acquired the year prior via trade, but a 4.87 ERA with the Nationals is likely what sent him out of town. In den Dekker the Nationals received a former top 15 prospect from a highly regarded system who had some left-handed power, a good glove and some speed, but a ton of strikeouts.
As you can see in all three examples, the Cubs would not have to give up much to acquire Oliver Perez if they choose to do so. A top 15 prospect or a salary dump or some sort of salary dump that the Cubs might find useful when work in a deal for Perez.
With the Cubs having one of the best systems in the majors, a top 20 prospect with potential, but some issues would probably be enough. Jeimer Candelario, Jen-Ho Tseng, Paul Blackburn, Christian Villanueva or Jacob Hannemann would make sense in a deal for Perez.
At 33 and with a history of wildness, there’s no way to tell if Oliver Perez is declining or just having a rough patch, but considering you’re not really giving up much, it might be worth it to give it a shot.
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