After being placed on the disabled list a little over a week ago, Chris Perez is still finding ways to irritate Tribe fans. News came out on Wednesday that the injured closer was under police investigation for a shipment of marijuana that had been sent to his home in suburban Cleveland. Quite frankly, this news does not come as much of a surprise. Perez’s actions, both on and off the field, have caused quite a stir over the past two seasons, and this latest development has just added fuel to the fire for many fans who have come to the conclusion that Perez needs to go.
Despite his two-year string of All-Star Game appearances, Perez has consistently given Cleveland Indians fans more than enough to worry about when given the opportunity to close out ballgames. Although his Houdini-like escapes have gotten him by in the past, the tables seem to have finally turned as Perez has seen his ERA balloon to 4.32 over the course of 17 appearances this season. Reaching either of his saves totals from the previous two seasons is laughable at this point (36 in 2011 and 39 in 2012), as he currently sits at 6-for-8 in save opportunities this season.
GM Chris Antonetti made a serious mistake by not selling high on Perez during last season’s trade deadline, and his value has only dropped since. The idea was to keep one of the club’s only stable groups – the bullpen – in tact coming into the 2013 season, but the plan has somewhat backfired as both Perez and usually-dominant setup man Vinnie Pestano have had the worst seasons of their careers to this point. While there is hope for Pestano - who appears to still be recovering from a bout with elbow tendinitis that forced him onto the disabled list in early May – the jury is still out on whether Perez can regain his form from a few seasons ago.
The biggest problem previously lied in the assumption that Chris Perez may no longer be viewed as a high-value asset by other teams in search of a closer. But now, with the revelation of Perez’s attempt to obtain one of MLB’s banned substances, will a possible suspension prevent even the most desperate Perez-dumping trade from happening? The answer is likely “yes.”
Regardless of the fact that having to hold onto Perez is not in the best interest of most fans, that may be the hand the Indians are dealt and a possible silver lining can be drawn from the situation. The absence of Perez has allowed Pestano to move into the closer role, which has produced mixed results thus far. One bullpen arm that may be better suited for the task, though, and would allow Pestano to move back to his normal ‘pen spot, is right-hander Cody Allen. Allen ascended rapidly in Cleveland’s farm system before emerging onto the scene late last season as a viable bullpen option. He has been dominant so far this season, striking out 35 batters in 26.2 innings of work while issuing just 8 walks, all while maintaining a stellar 2.03 E.R.A.
Staying within playoff contention throughout the course of a full 162-game schedule is an area that the Indians have obviously faltered in the past two seasons. As the team looks to reverse this trend, it would be wise to start grooming Allen into the closer role sooner rather than later so that when Perez does return, he may have already lost his job before he can contribute to the team sinking back into its Perez-like self-destructive ways.
Enjoy the “high” while it lasts, Chris, because you may be saying “bye” to Cleveland before you know it.