By Sheldon Ocker
Beacon Journal sports writer
It defied logic to believe that Chris Perez would continue to be the Indians’ closer in 2014, but his excision from the team Thursday came as something of a surprise.
Rather than wait and see if he could salvage something from Perez’s departure, General Manager Chris Antonetti cut the cord now by giving Perez his release.
“We made the determination that Chris would not be a fit on our roster next year,” Antonetti said. “So we felt this made sense now rather than wait until Dec. 2. This allows us to have more flexibility with our roster.”
Teams have until early December to tender contracts to their players.
For the season, Perez, 28, compiled a 5-3 record with 25 saves in 30 chances and a 4.33 ERA. He walked 21, struck out 54 and gave up 11 home runs in 54 innings.
Perez spent a tumultuous season in 2013, battling a shoulder injury, running afoul of the law for receiving marijuana through the mail, engaging in a boycott of the media for much of the year and suffering a meltdown on the mound in September, when the Tribe was making its run to earn a playoff spot.
The bottom dropped out for Perez late in the season, first in a Sept. 24 game against the Chicago White Sox and again three days later against the Minnesota Twins, allowing a combined six runs in 1⅓ innings. Afterward, he told manager Terry Francona that he was not capable of continuing as closer.
Antonetti said that Perez did not turn into a distraction to his teammates.
Asked to explain Perez’s poor performance, Antonetti said, “There were a variety of things but Chris has been a meaningful contributor to this team, including this year.”
Then why is he not a good fit for 2014?
“There are a lot of factors,” Antonetti said. “Because he is eligible for arbitration, Chris is due for another raise in that process.”
The front office was probably getting tired of Perez’s off-field indiscretions (he spent much of 2012 delivering messages through the media criticizing the fans, team management and ownership), but cold cash is the biggest reason that Perez won’t return to the Indians.
He made $7.3 million this year and probably will command at least $9 million in 2014, because he can have his salary determined by an arbitrator.
Antonetti indicated that he canvassed other GMs about the possibility of acquiring Perez, but his sub-par season, his run-in with the police and especially his salary probably made him untradeable.
For his four-year tenure with the Indians, Perez compiled an 11-17 record and saved 124 games (ranking third on the franchise’s all-time list) with a 3.33 ERA.
One of Antonetti’s tasks in the offseason will be determining how to fill the vacuum left by the departure of Perez.
“We have a few guys internally who I would feel comfortable pitching in high-leverage situations,” Antonetti said. “We feel that Cody Allen and Bryan Shaw have that capability, and we still have confidence that Vinnie Pestano can bounce back.”
Despite their youth (Allen is 24, Shaw is 25) and inexperience, Allen and Shaw frequently were used in the setup role. Allen was 6-1 with a 2.43 ERA in 70⅓ innings, making 77 appearances. Shaw was 7-3 with a 3.24 ERA in 75 innings, making 70 appearances.
Pestano was the club’s lockdown setup man for two years before struggling in 2013. He spent time in May on the disabled list with inflammation in his elbow and never regained the form that enabled him to dominate in 2011 and 2012.
In 37 outings, Pestano was 1-2 with a 4.08 ERA in 35⅓ innings.
Asked if he thought Pestano is healthy, Antonetti said, “At this point, I have no reason to think otherwise.”
Antonetti said that in addition to considering in-house candidates for closer, he would look outside to either sign a free-agent reliever or making a trade for one.
In addition to jettisoning Perez, Antonetti re-signed Jason Giambi to a minor-league contract with an invitation to spring training.
Giambi signed a similar deal last year and went on to become one of the heroes of the club, despite a .183 batting average. Giambi had several big hits, including a walk-off home run in a win over the White Sox Sept. 24. He also was the ultimate go-to guy in the clubhouse, advising his teammates and Francona.
In 186 at-bats, Giambi hit nine home runs and had 31 RBI.
To complete a trade with the San Diego Padres, the Tribe acquired left-handed reliever Colt Hynes, 28, who spent the first half of the season in the minors but was summoned to the big leagues for the second half.
At Double-A San Antonio, Hynes compiled an 0.73 ERA in 10 appearances (12⅓ innings) and posted a 1.80 ERA in 31 outings (35 innings) with Triple-A Tucson. After being called up to the Padres, Hynes was 0-0 with a 9.00 ERA in 22 games (17 innings).
“He has a fastball, sinker mix,” Antonetti said. “We’ll bring him to spring training and give him a chance to make the team.”
Sheldon Ocker can be reached at email@example.com. Read the Indians blog at http://www.ohio.com/indians. Follow him on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/SheldonOckerABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.