Earlier today, the Arizona Diamondbacks handed once promising starter Oliver Perez a two-year deal worth $4.5 million. Now a reliever, Perez excelled in a resurgent stint with Seattle over the past two years, shaking off his horrid performance with the Mets and Nationals from 2009-2011. While Perez may be nothing more than a LOOGY, he brings quite a bit of value to Arizona's bullpen.
One of the major downfalls of the 2013 Arizona Diamondbacks was their bullpen, which posted the 7th worst FIP in baseball. They saw just three relievers reach the 40 inning mark AND put up a ERA+ of at least 100 (league-average). While Brad Ziegler, Josh Collmenter, and Will Harris were nice pieces to have, that trio is hardly enough to carry the bullpen on a team with postseason aspirations.
Arizona did a good job of refurbishing their relief crop this winter, trading for "proven closer" Addison Reed, extending Josh Collmenter and Brad Ziegler, and exiling Heath Bell. The upgrade from Bell to Reed alone could be worth two extra wins this year. It's also likely that they see a rebound campaign from David Hernandez, further development from Randall Delgado, and a return to health for JJ Putz. There's quite a bit to be optimistic about regarding Arizona's 2014 bullpen.
Still, the Diamondbacks had one glaring need: a left-hander.
Arizona's primary left-hander in 2013, Matt Reynolds, was excellent until mid-June (196 ERA+, 4.6 SO/BB), when he got hurt and underwent Tommy John surgery, ending his 2013 campaign and most likely sidelining him for much of this season. His replacement, Joe Thatcher (acquired from San Diego in last July's Ian Kennedy trade), was abysmal, pitching in 22 games, but throwing just 9.1 innings while surrendering 7 runs. He doesn't appear to be in Arizona's plans for 2014.
Perez appears to be a more than competent option to hold down the LOOGY role while Reynolds recovers, as his splits since becoming a reliever have favored a lefty-only role. Since joining the Mariners' bullpen in 2012, right-handed hitters have hit .237/.309/.411 off him, while left-handers have hit just .254/.346/.316. Left-handers have had an easier time reaching base against Perez, but they have struggled to hit for any power whatsoever. Obviously, Perez' ideal role is as a LOOGY, but his numbers aren't terrible against right-handers, which could give Arizona some versatility in their bullpen.
Perez also looks like a steal compared to the rest of the left-handed relief market this winter. Netting a $2.25 million AAV, his contract totals fall well short of the likes of Boone Logan (three-years, $16.5 million), Javier Lopez (three-years, $13 million), and JP Howell (two-years, $11.25 million). While all three received significantly more money than Perez, none of them is a significantly better pitcher
Out of that quartet, Perez is tied with Lopez for the lead in WAR while also being second in both FIP and SO/9. He has the second highest innings-to-games pitched ratio among that group (0.87 innings per appearance), demonstrating his ability to be more than a true LOOGY like Lopez and Boone are. Compared to his peers, Perez may wind up being one of the best relief bargains of this offseason when all is said and done.
Obviously, Perez is a huge upgrade to Arizona's bullpen, and he comes at a relatively cheap price. All things point to a solid deal for the Diamondbacks here.