What can the Red Sox expect from Martin Perez in 2020?

FT. MYERS, FL - FEBRUARY 15: Martin Perez #54 of the Boston Red Sox throws during a team workout on February 15, 2020 at JetBlue Park at Fenway South in Fort Myers, Florida. (Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)
FT. MYERS, FL - FEBRUARY 15: Martin Perez #54 of the Boston Red Sox throws during a team workout on February 15, 2020 at JetBlue Park at Fenway South in Fort Myers, Florida. (Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images) /

The Red Sox haven’t signed any impact players this offseason and Martin Perez might be the least exciting of all. What can we expect from him?

Baseball teams only go as far as their starting pitching and right now, the Boston Red Sox rotation looks perilously thin. Losing Rick Porcello and David Price, two veteran pitchers who were durable and ate a lot of innings and who both also had some stellar seasons, was a big blow for the Red Sox. The depletion of the rotation could be mitigated with a minor league system rich in pitching prospects, but unfortunately that’s not something the Red Sox have had in two decades.

While many fans are wondering how the Red Sox intend to flesh out the fourth and fifth spots in the rotation after the assumed top trio of Chris Sale, Eduardo Rodriguez, and Nathan Eovaldi (in that order), there has been speculation that the Red Sox may use an opener for the fifth spot instead of a traditional starter. Given that new Chief Baseball Officer Chaim Bloom and his former team, the Tampa Bay Rays, pioneered the concept this would seem entirely within the realm of possibility.

I recently wrote about how I’d prefer to see the team use an actual starter in the fifth rotation slot and for two reasons. First, as we saw last year, the bullpen (which is for all intents and purposes this season is the same group as last year) was not very talented and grew taxed as the season went on. Starters were not able to routinely throw more than four or five innings, so the bullpen was asked to pitch four or five innings every night and they were exposed.

Using an opener, the Red Sox would be asking them to pitch eight innings in these games, an even worse demand on them. As for the second reason, it’s simply because I hated watching those “bullpen games” last season; I suspect most other Red Sox fans did, too. For those reasons, I wrote that I’d like to see the team give Ryan Weber a chance to be the fifth starter.

As for the fourth starter, we’ve been assuming that it will be newcomer Martin Perez, a former member of the Texas Rangers and Minnesota Twins whom the team signed to a one-year, $6 million deal in December. He started in Texas for seven seasons before pitching for the Twins last year. He’s a low risk/low reward signing, the kind Bloom seems to be enamored with thus far during his young Red Sox career.

What are the Red Sox getting in Martin Perez? Here are the numbers:

2012: 1-4 W-L, 5.45 ERA, 25 K, 15 BB, 38.0 IP, 1.632 WHIP (6 starts)
2013: 10-6 W-L, 3.62 ERA, 84 K, 37 BB, 124.1 IP, 1.335 WHIP (20 starts)
2014: 4-3 W-L, 4.38 ERA, 35 K, 19 BB, 51.1 IP, 1.344 WHIP (8 starts)
2015: 3-6 W-L, 4.46 ERA, 48 K, 24 BB, 78.2 IP, 1.424 WHIP (14 starts)
2016: 10-11 W-L, 4.39 ERA, 103 K, 76 BB, 198.2 IP, 1.414 WHIP (33 starts)
2017: 13-12 W-L, 4.82 ERA, 115 K, 63 BB, 185.0 IP, 1.535 WHIP (32 starts)
2018: 2-7 W-L, 6.22 ERA, 52 K, 36 BB, 85.1 IP, 1.781 WHIP (15 starts)
2019: 10-7 W-L, 5.12 ERA, 135 K, 67 BB, 165.1 IP, 1.518 WHIP (29 starts)
Career totals: 53-56 W-L, 4.72 ERA, 597 K, 337 BB, 926.2 IP, 1.486 WHIP (157 starts)

Looking at those numbers, there’s nothing too exciting there. Perez is basically a .500 (or slightly worse) pitcher. When he’s been healthy, he’s eaten a fair amount of innings and struck some guys out, but he also walks a ton of batters; he has roughly a 2:1 K:BB ratio which is not good. As for that WHIP, the less said about that, the better.

Perez was a highly touted prospect when he came up through the Rangers’ system and although he showed some promise with a decent 2013 season, he’s otherwise been the very definition of mediocre. There’s only one season (2013 again) with an ERA lower than 4.00 and three with an ERA over 5.00. His last two seasons, in fact, were the worst of his career (apart from his rookie year), sporting ERAs of 6.22 and 5.12 in 2018 and 2019, respectively.

Those last two seasons were so bad that both the Rangers (2018) and Twins (2019) declined to pick up his club option. As I always say in situations like this, especially to the many Red Sox fans who were inexplicably excited by this signing: there’s a reason he was available. That’s not to say that Perez will be a complete and utter failure in Boston, but at the same time anyone expecting him to be anything other than what he’s been over his entire career is bound to be disappointed.

Next. Sale will open season on injured list. dark

The AL East is one of the toughest divisions in all of baseball to pitch in and with the sluggers that the Yankees and Blue Jays have, Red Sox fans can expect to see Perez’ ERA in that 5-6 range (if not higher). He’s probably not going to win a lot of games or be very good, but if he can stay healthy and eat enough innings in the four spot so that they team doesn’t have to throw bullpen games twice every time through the rotation, it would be a small victory for the Red Sox.