The Indians have brought back one of the pitchers who helped stabilize their sinking bullpen in 2018.
The Indians on Friday announced a one-year deal with left-handed reliever Oliver Perez that includes a vesting option for the 2020 season. Perez will make $2.5 million in 2019, a source confirmed for the Beacon Journal. The 2020 vesting option could then be worth either $2.75 million (if he appears in 55-59 games and passes a physical in 2019) or $3 million (if he appears in at least 60 games and passes a physical).
The Indians have needed to address their bullpen after losing free agents Cody Allen (to the Los Angeles Angels) and Andrew Miller (to the St. Louis Cardinals) but didn’t pull the trigger on some of the higher-priced free agents. Many of the top names have been taken off the board already, including Zach Britton and Adam Ottavino to the New York Yankees, Jeurys Familia to the New York Mets, David Robertson to the Philadelphia Phillies, Joe Kelly to the Los Angeles Dodgers and Kelvin Herrera to the Chicago White Sox.
Perez acted as a stabilizer for a struggling Indians bullpen last year. He ended up offering a strong return on investment, posting a 1.39 ERA and 1.74 FIP in 32 1/3 innings, a significant boost to a unit that was sorely missing a healthy Miller.
“In the time that Oliver joined our major-league team last year, he was a stabilizing presence in the bullpen at a point in time when we really needed it,” Indians president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti said in a conference call. “He pitched extraordinarily well for us against both left- and right-handed hitters and became a reliable option for [manager Terry Francona] as the season progressed.”
Along with Brad Hand, Perez figures to be a key piece of the Indians' 2019 bullpen that also features Tyler Olson as a left-handed option.
Among the right-handers, the Indians’ options include Adam Cimber, Dan Otero, Nick Goody, A.J. Cole, Jon Edwards, Neil Ramirez, Ben Taylor and several non-roster invitees. Danny Salazar or Cody Anderson could also end up pitching out of the bullpen, though those two will first be lengthened out as starters this spring.
The bullpen remains one of the club’s biggest question marks heading into spring camp.
“With some of the returning players we have from last year’s bullpen, guys returning from injury as well as guys that we acquired during the course of trades or minor signings this offseason, we feel like we’ve got a good group to choose from,” Antonetti said. “That won’t preclude from looking at other options to improve that group, but we feel good about the group of guys we have.”
Ryan Lewis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Indians blog at www.ohio.com/indians. Follow him on Twitter at @ByRyanLewis.