Indians release controversial closer
The team released the colorful closer Thursday following a season in which he performed below his All-Star abilities, got arrested and surrendered his job in the final week as Cleveland tried to clinch a playoff spot.
Also, the Indians re-signed veteran slugger Jason Giambi, who provided leadership last season along with some clutch hits.
A two-time All-Star, Perez spent five seasons in Cleveland. And while he saved 124 games, Perez often was at the center of turmoil that overshadowed his pitching. He angered Indians fans last season for saying they didn't support the team like they should, and he rankled Cleveland's front office by criticizing trades and stating the Indians weren't spending enough to win.
"We just finished out team meetings and made the determination that Chris was not a fit on our roster," general manager Chris Antonetti said in announcing Perez's release.
In June, Perez was arrested after drug agents followed a package containing marijuana to his home in Rocky River, Ohio. He and his wife pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge. Perez, who was never shy about voicing his opinion on any subject, didn't talk to the media for months before breaking his silence on the final day of the regular season in Minnesota when the Indians secured a wild-card berth.
Antonetti denied the notion that Perez was a distraction.
"I think we were able to handle any issues," Antonetti said. "In the end, we won 92 games with him serving as our closer for the majority of the season."
Perez was eligible for salary arbitration this winter, and based on his statistics and was in line for a raise from his $7.3 million salary this year. But Perez's struggles, along with his tempestuous past, resulted in the Indians cutting ties with him a day after the World Series ended.
In 54 games, Perez went 5-3 with a 4.33 ERA and 25 saves in 30 attempts. But he scuffled after Aug. 1 as his ERA ballooned to 7.52 ERA and he allowed six runs in his final two appearances.
Antonetti said Perez, who had a stint on the disabled list this season with a sore shoulder, is healthy and feels he'll bounce back -- just not in Cleveland.
"On balance, Chris was a very meaningful contributor to our teams over the last few years," Antonetti said. "He had a tough stretch at the end of the season, but all players go through ups and downs. I think Chris will respond well and pitch well for his next team."
After he gave up four runs in the ninth inning of a win over Minnesota late in the season, Perez walked into manager Terry Francona's office and told him he didn't want to cost the team a possible playoff berth. Francona promptly pulled him from the closer's role, and there was speculation Perez would be left off the postseason roster.
However, Perez was on the active roster for the wild-card loss to Tampa Bay.
With Perez gone, the Indians need a closer and will look to fill the spot internally with either Cody Allen or Bryan Shaw, two reliable relievers last year. Antonetti said the club could pursue a closer in free agency, but his preference is to use a pitcher on the roster.
Giambi was a consummate team player from the moment he arrived at training camp last spring training, and the Indians were thrilled to have him back.
"There is no better way to start our offseason than to re-sign Jason Giambi," said Antonetti. "He made a huge impact on our team last season."
The 42-year-old, who was a finalist for Colorado's managerial job last year, batted just .183 with nine homers and 31 RBIs in 71 games. But it was contributions inside Cleveland's clubhouse as a mentor to the team's younger players and a conduit for Francona that helped the Indians get back to the playoffs for the first time since 2007.
Giambi also had a flair for the dramatic.
He twice became the oldest player in history to hit a walk-off home run. He broke the record set by Hank Aaron on July 29 against Chicago and then bettered his own mark on Sept. 24 with a two-run, pinch-hit homer with two outs in the ninth to beat the White Sox, a shot that helped propel the Indians to a 10-game winning streak to end the season.
"When you get a guy like that, sometimes it can be once in a lifetime," Franconia said. "He's changed people in the organization. He's made me better. He's made everybody he touches better. That's a very special person."
The Indians signed Giambi to a minor league contract, a deal with minimal risk in case he decides to retire.
Cleveland also made a minor trade with San Diego, acquiring left-hander Colt Hynes from the Padres for cash considerations. The 28-year-old reliever spent the second half of last season with San Diego, posting a 9.00 ERA in 22 relief outings.