Salvador Pérez still remembers growing up in the Venezuelan city of Valencia, where as a youngster he would take batting practise against his mother with a broomstick and later play organised ball with the likes of José Altuve.He never thought a day like Sunday could be possible.
The six-time All-Star catcher was then given a four-year contract extension by the Kansas City Royals. A source told ESPN that the contract is worth $82 million, confirming different reports, making it the richest contract in Royals history. The financial aspect of Perez’s extension was first reported by the Kansas City Star.
The value of the new deal surpasses the four-year, $72 million contract the Royals gave outfielder Alex Gordon in 2016.
Perez’s contract extension, which runs through the 2022 season, comes after he was named the American League Comeback Player of the Year in 2020.
“It’s hard to believe where I’m coming from, where I grew up, to see the situation I have right now, it makes me feel super happy,” Pérez said from the Royals’ spring training home in Surprise, Arizona. “My mother is going to be happy. I know my grandma is going to be happy. I know they’re excited for me to be here for four more years, maybe five.”
“Nobody loves to play baseball more than Salvador Pérez. There are players that like it just as much but nobody loves it more,” Royals general manager Dayton Moore said. “Nobody can imagine him not being here.”
Pérez, who turns 31 in May, has established himself as not only one of the game’s best catchers, but also one of the Royals’ most popular players. He was the World Series MVP in 2015, when the team ended a 30-year championship drought, and is coming off a season in which he hit.333 with 11 home runs and 32 RBIs to earn his third Silver Slugger.
He also has five Gold Gloves to his credit, and the Royals are counting on him to bring out the best in a young and promising starting rotation that they hope will lead them back to the postseason.
“I mean, the catching position is without a doubt the most demanding position in our game,” Moore said. “It’s hard, I think almost impossible, to win championships unless you have somebody behind the plate, somebody at the catcher position, that’s a leader — that brings out the confidence in your pitching staff. And Salvy does all that.”
Indeed, Pérez has proven to be a dependable catcher. He played in at least 129 games in six consecutive seasons, often fighting for days off, until Tommy John surgery forced him to miss the entire 2019 season.
During the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, he returned to have one of his best seasons of his career.
“It’s the same with everybody: You trust your medical people,” Moore said. “Of course we talked about Salvy, but at the end of the day, they all signed off on it because they believe in his work ethic. They believe in the condition of his body. They believe in his heart and mind to play. He puts himself in a position to go out there every single day.”
Pérez is also a personal favourite of John Sherman, a former part-owner of the AL Central rival Cleveland Indians who now leads the ownership group that bought the Royals from the late David Glass prior to the 2017 season.
In January, Sherman convened a meeting in Florida with Moore, Pérez, and several other executives, and it was at that meeting that the framework for the new contract was hammered out. It was completed just weeks before Opening Day, when the Royals expect about 10,000 fans to return to Kauffman Stadium for each game.
“You know, they believe in me and what I do on the field,” Pérez said, “and all the fans in Kansas City, you know?”
The small-market Royals have a reputation for being stingy with contracts, but Pérez’s new deal is the latest sign that Sherman and the new owners are willing to open the wallet to bring in a winner.
The Royals signed slugging first baseman Carlos Santana to a two-year, $17.5 million contract; they landed Red Sox outfielder Andrew Benintendi in a three-team trade; they re-signed right-hander Mike Minor to a two-year, $18 million deal; and they bolstered their beleaguered bullpen by signing former All-Star pitchers Greg Holland and Wade Davis.
They also have shown a willingness to reward their own. The Royals started March off by signing third baseman Hunter Dozier to a four-year, $25 million contract with the hope that he can bounce back from a rough 2020 season.
As for Pérez, he had no interest in trying out free agency for the first time after this season.
“I want to stay here,” he said simply. “I want to finish my career here.”
Information from ESPN’s Jeff Passan and The Associated Press was used in this report.