It’s officially after 5 PM, which means that starting pitcher Martín Pérez is a free agent. Instead of picking up his $6.85M option, the Red Sox tried to lowball their only consistently-healthy starting pitcher to the tune of a more than 50% pay cut for the 2021 season, and understandably, he was not willing to play ball, pun intended.
It’s getting pretty hard to defend this ownership group and Red Sox leadership. You didn’t want to pay the only starter who was healthy enough to throw sixty-plus innings this season when no one else even threw fifty? You didn’t want to pay a man whose 2020 salary accounted for less than 5% of the active payroll? You tried to get a player to take a massive pay cut after all MLB players took massive pay cuts in 2020 under the joint agreement between MLB and the Players’ Association?
Pérez was one of the only bright spots in this very dark, frustrating Red Sox season. For one thing, he was the only starting pitcher who remained healthy from Opening Day until the last day of the season. Nathan Eovaldi was good this year, but even he ended up on the Injured List for a stretch and missed multiple starts. Tanner Houck was a delight in his debut and subsequent starts, but only made his debut on September 15. No, you’re only steadfast man on the mound was Pérez, and this is how you thank him?
When I made a to-do list for Chaim Bloom this offseason, picking up Pérez’s option was up at the top. The free-agent market this winter is going to be an absolute nightmare, and starter options aren’t particularly ripe for the pitching (wink wink). With Chris Sale and Eduardo Rodriguez both expected to miss at least the first two months (but likely much more) of next season, what the Red Sox need more than anything is depth in their rotation. Pérez provided depth at an extremely low cost. It would not have hindered them going out and signing other arms. It would, in fact, be a nice change of pace for this team to have too many starting pitchers instead of a 2-man rotation and whichever Triple-A guys are up from Pawtucket at any given point in the season.
To anyone who says that the Red Sox lost a lot of money this year, don’t even try. Sure, MLB teams lost millions, but unlike most people in America in 2020, they can afford to lose money. Each and every MLB team is owned by a billionaire. The Red Sox, specifically, are owned by Fenway Sports Group, the 3rd-richest ownership group in all of pro sports, valued at over $6.5 billion. Do not kid yourself or allow them to kid you: they could have afforded to pay Mookie Betts, and they certainly could afford to pay Martín Pérez.
My questions for the Red Sox are, do you think this behavior will endear you to prospective players around the league and other free agents? Do you think that trying to stiff a veteran starting pitcher on his bill will make others want to come here and face a similar fate? And, do you think you can do better at this price for a veteran arm?
The Red Sox have made a lot of unlikable moves over the last year, from Mookie Betts, to Brock Holt, to their transparency with players versus with the media, and now Jackie Bradley Jr. and Martín Pérez. Baseball is a business, of course, but how this team goes about its business is worth noting, because it is often unnecessarily unkind to its own. Chaim Bloom never called Brock Holt last winter. He told the media at the trade deadline that he wanted JBJ to be here for a long time, but never told JBJ anything of the sort. He tried to get Martín to take a massive pay cut for no other reason than miserliness. None of these things needed to happen the way that they did. You can run a successful business without treating your employees terribly. The Red Sox are choosing to be this way; no one is forcing them.
Best of luck to you, Martín. Thank you for lifting us up this year.
Photo: Billie Weiss