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Mariners Put On Their Re-Sign-Oliver-Perez Hats

Ezra Shaw

Earlier this past week, Oliver Perez officially became a free agent. Friday brought the end of the Seattle Mariners' exclusive negotiating window. It stood to reason that the Mariners would be interested in bringing Perez back for cheap, but during the window no agreement could be reached. Perez thus became available for anybody to sign. Everybody else must've been like "oh gross Oliver Perez" because late Saturday night we got word that Perez re-signed with Seattle.

He's been given a one-year contract worth $1.5 million, with an additional $0.6 million available in incentives. Last year, you'll recall that Perez first signed a minor-league contract, and none of us really paid attention because we figured he'd never make it back to the majors. He made it back to the majors and posted a lower ERA than Felix. Shows what we know. No, wait. Shows what we knew. Big difference. Little difference, but, big difference.

It was in February 2009 that Perez signed with the Mets for three years and $36 million. That's the big contract that ended up a disaster. Remember when you were a kid and it was awesome to have a dollar? Remember when you got a little older and it was awesome to have five dollars, or ten dollars, or twenty dollars? Remember when you first got a paycheck? Remember when you started getting substantial paychecks, if you've gotten to that point? You know how now you don't really care about one dollar or five dollars? You know how the magic of that dollar is gone? I wonder what it's like to negotiate such a modest contract after you've already negotiated a major contract. I wonder if Oliver Perez responds to the idea of a million dollars with a dismissive wanking motion.

There are some interesting things about Oliver Perez, obviously. This is one that sticks out in my mind:

Perez started putting up good numbers, and Mariners assistant general manager Jeff Kingston noticed.

"One day Jeff said to me, ‘Have you seen what Oliver Perez is doing in Mexico?’ " Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik said. "He brought in the numbers, and they were pretty impressive. I know some people down there; we made a call and (Jeff) kept on top of it."

You always want to think that major-league baseball organizations have this complicated, practically magical decision process. And, yeah, the processes are really complicated, usually. There are at least a number of steps. But what got Oliver Perez on the Mariners' radar was Jeff Kingston mindlessly scrolling through small-sample winterball statistics. Last winter, with the Tomateros de Culiacan, Perez threw a total of 14.1 innings. He got the Mariners' attention before he was finished, because the Mariners still had to scout him. So Jeff Kingston brought Perez to Zduriencik's attention based on like five or ten innings of performance in Mexican winterball. You think you get desperate in the colder months? The Mariners acted on a statistical small sample in winterball. Baseball teams get desperate in the colder months.

Of course the Mariners signed Perez because they liked what they saw, and what they saw was a lefty reliever with a rejuvenated fastball. Perez posted decent numbers in Tacoma and then he got promoted in the middle of June, since had he not been promoted he could've opted to become a free agent. And then Perez pitched well as a Mariner. Oliver Perez, left-handed Mariners reliever, was something of a strike-throwing machine. Oliver Perez.

Before 2012, Perez was last in the majors in 2010. In 2010, 464 pitchers threw at least 20 innings. Oliver Perez's strike rate ranked 460th. In 2012, 482 pitchers threw at least 20 innings. Oliver Perez's strike rate ranked 21st. He shot up from just under 57 percent to just under 68 percent. Perez didn't pitch that much in 2012 so of course the sample is limited, but at one time imagining Perez as a strike-thrower would've been as absurd as imagining Munenori Kawasaki as a power hitter. He just didn't seem physically capable. Now either he's capable, or he's a hell of a liar.

Notably, in June and July, Perez struck out 15 of 59 batters. From August on, he struck out nine of 64 batters. That's worse! He had two strikeouts in September. But there might be a good explanation for that:

"I felt pretty good this year," Perez said at the season's conclusion. "I got a little bit tired because this was my first time doing this, this year. It was kind of a new role for me."

Before September, Perez's fastball averaged 93.9 miles per hour. Then it averaged 92.7 miles per hour. His slider got slower, too. There's good evidence to suggest that Perez got tired toward the end, and of course he was adjusting to a relief role he'd never before had. A relief role comes with its own particular demands. It isn't insane to believe that Perez could prepare himself differently in 2013, allowing him to stave off a recurrence of the late-season fatigue. He understands better what he's up against, now.

So Perez was pretty good in 2012, and probably, miraculously, he should be pretty good in 2013. He's still only 31 years old and one can't deny his command and velocity improvements. One shouldn't at all be upset about his re-signing. He'll presumably join Charlie Furbush and Lucas Luetge as lefties out of the Mariners' bullpen. The righties look like they'll be chosen from Tom Wilhelmsen, Stephen Pryor, Carter Capps, Josh Kinney, and Shawn Kelley. There are other candidates, and you never know who might get dealt or hurt or acquired, but at the moment the Mariners' bullpen looks set and effective. Everybody in there can strike a batter out. Everybody in there can strike multiple batters out! Nobody in there is incapable of striking a batter out.

You know how Jeff Cirillo left Seattle, wound up in Milwaukee, and started to hit again? You know how Scott Spiezio left Seattle, wound up in St. Louis, and started to hit again? You know how that was super annoying? Oliver Perez left New York, wound up in Seattle, and started to pitch well again. This shit doesn't only happen to us. Suck it long, New York. Or, wait, are we supposed to be being nice to New York right now? Tact has never been one of my strengths. Tact or cooking asparagus.