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Source: Nats sign veteran lefty Perez to 2-year deal

Dec 4, 2015, 3:52 PM EST

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The Nationals have taken their first significant step toward overhauling their bullpen, agreeing to terms Friday with veteran left-hander Oliver Perez on a 2-year, $7 million deal, according to a source familiar with the contract.

Perez, 34, has been around the block during a 15-year career featuring an assortment of highs and lows, but he has refashioned himself as an effective lefty reliever over the last few seasons and now has parlayed that into a multi-year deal, his biggest contract since a 3-year, $36 million pact with the Mets in 2009.

Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com was first to report Perez’s signing with the Nationals.

Perez figures to assume the role held over the last year and a half by Matt Thornton, the 39-year-old who proved an effective matchup lefty but departed as a free agent at the end of the season. Interestingly enough, Perez’s $3.5 million salary in 2016 is identical to Thornton’s salary this year.

The Nationals have long been intrigued by the sidearm-throwing southpaw, having signed him to a minor-league contract in 2011. Perez wound up making 15 starts for Class AA Harrisburg, posting a 3.09 ERA but never earning a promotion.

The following year, he decided to refashion himself as a reliever, first with the Mariners. In the four seasons since, Perez owns a 3.31 ERA over 232 appearances with Seattle, Arizona and Houston, striking out 11.1 batters per 9 innings.

Perez’s biggest issue over the years, and ultimately his downfall as a starter, has been erratic command. He has walked nearly 5 batters per 9 innings over his career, though that rate dropped to 3.7 once he made the full-time conversion to reliever in 2012.

Perez has enjoyed his best success against left-handed batters. For his career, they are batting .231 with a .681 OPS against him. This season, they hit a scant .181 with a .517 OPS, 33 strikeouts and only five walks.

The Nationals figure to use Perez in brief stints, matching up almost exclusively against left-handed batters. Fellow southpaw Felipe Rivero, who proved effective against batters from both sides of the plate as a rookie, would likely be used to pitch full innings late in games.

Perez’s addition could be just the first of several changes the Nationals make to their bullpen this winter, with the statuses of closers Jonathan Papelbon and Drew Storen very much up in the air and Thornton, Casey Janssen and Craig Stammen now free agents. They remain interested in right-hander Darren O’Day, according to sources, though it’s unclear if they’re willing to meet the veteran’s reported asking price of 4 years and at least $32 million.

  1. nats106 - Dec 4, 2015 at 3:57 PM

    Bullpen problem solved!

  2. alexva6 - Dec 4, 2015 at 4:09 PM

    Perez > Thornton

    keep going Mike!

    • natsguy - Dec 4, 2015 at 6:19 PM

      I suspect that needs to be Perez < Thornton

  3. Sonny G 10 - Dec 4, 2015 at 4:21 PM

    That’s part of the bullpen problem fixed. What’s next Rizzo?

  4. raleighnat - Dec 4, 2015 at 4:42 PM

    Good first step. In Rizzo we trust! (Or at least I still do)

  5. tcostant - Dec 4, 2015 at 5:18 PM

    OMG -When this guy was with the Mets he was soooooooo bad.

    • Doc - Dec 4, 2015 at 5:25 PM

      Bad is an understatement. Fortunately, for us we got to bat against him.

      I notice that for his brief work with Houston, after he was traded from Arizona, he didn’t do so well with an ERA over 6!

  6. Eugene in Oregon - Dec 4, 2015 at 6:01 PM

    Good initial signing. Step by step, signing by signing, you address the broader bullpen problem.

  7. natsguy - Dec 4, 2015 at 6:06 PM

    I’m not so sure about this one. He used to be really BAAAADDDDDDD.

  8. dogface13 - Dec 4, 2015 at 6:13 PM

    His agent just hawked a Loogy

    • natsfan1a - Dec 4, 2015 at 9:07 PM

      Ha. That is all.

  9. veejh - Dec 4, 2015 at 6:29 PM

    Meh

  10. stoatva - Dec 4, 2015 at 6:47 PM

    This signing calls to mind a comment I recall reading many years ago that it isn’t the price of great talent that kills you so much as the price of mediocrity.

  11. Sam - Dec 4, 2015 at 7:05 PM

    I’m not sure this signing is anything to write home about. An average reliever was signed for an average salary. However, our bullpen last year was AWFUL. Average is a significant improvement. Let’s hope he keeps it up.

    I haven’t checked out Perez’s situational numbers – an area that particularly killed the Nationals’ bullpen last year. Their peripherals as a whole make them look respectable. Their inability last year to retire batters in high leverage situations and maintain leads made them look horrible.

    • shawndc04 - Dec 5, 2015 at 9:39 AM

      Great against left handed batters; terrible against righties.

  12. unkyd59 - Dec 4, 2015 at 7:13 PM

    Well… You can’t get in too much trouble for $7mil, these days… If it’s a miss, it’s not a crippling miss. I wonder what Maddux knows about sidewinders…?

    • rabbit433 - Dec 5, 2015 at 6:43 AM

      You can’t get in much trouble with $70 mil, just keep raising ticket prices!!

  13. stoatva - Dec 4, 2015 at 11:30 PM

    Dozed off for awhile and dreamt that the D-backs signed Greinke. Heh. Crazy dream.

    • therealjohnc - Dec 4, 2015 at 11:55 PM

      Moves the Nats up – D-Backs forfeit the #13 overall pick, moving the Nats up from #18 to #17.

  14. Doc - Dec 4, 2015 at 11:32 PM

    Perez comes a lot cheaper than Greinke who is about to pull in about $34 million each year for 6 years.

  15. unkyd59 - Dec 5, 2015 at 10:35 AM

    Starting to sound like we’re gonna have O’day…. A sidewinder, from each side of the plate…and maybe he can help Perez with control and consistency…..

    • trfwans - Dec 5, 2015 at 11:11 AM

      If Perez has command issues, there’s a guy named Maddux around now who can help him with that – even if all he does is share his brother’s phone number.

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