The Brewers, who have spent most of the offseason cutting costs, signed Freddy Peralta to a five-year extension guaranteeing him $15.5 million. The deal includes two club options that could bring the total to $30.75 million. If the Brewers want him for years six and seven, they’ll have Peralta through his age-30 season for less than the cost of one Eric Sogard per year.
For the Brewers, there’s no way this move could backfire. Even if Peralta is unspeakably awful and washes out of professional baseball this season (which is incredibly unlikely), $15.5 million over five years is a pittance for even the “poorest” of teams. Let’s be real: no one believes that the Brewers actually operated at a loss last year.
If Peralta ever takes the next step, this could be a massive underpay. In what would have been Peralta’s third year of arbitration, he’ll make $6 million. Robbie Ray, who has been a two-to-three-win pitcher throughout his career, will make $9.4 million in his third year of arbitration. There’s no guarantee Peralta will ever navigate his high-strikeout, high-walk profile as well as Ray, but Peralta’s fastball makes it easy to dream on the young righty.
Peralta threw his fastball 77.7 percent of the time, and for good reason. Peralta’s fastball ranked in the 89th percentile for spin rate and induced a 14 percent swinging strike rate in 2019. That was the 21st best mark among all 303 pitchers who threw at least 300 fastballs last season.
If he’s not throwing his fastball, he’s almost always throwing a curveball. When hitters swing at Peralta’s curve, they generally have a tough time connecting with it. When they do, the contact is usually soft. The issue is that hitters aren’t coaxed by his curve as often as Peralta would like. Hitters have only offered at a third of the hooks Peralta’s thrown as a major leaguer. Breaking balls are often thrown out of the zone, so if hitters aren’t swinging, they’ll usually go for a ball. That’s one of the reasons Peralta’s walk rate was about 19 percent higher than league average last season.
As good as Peralta’s fastball and curve are, he doesn’t have a consistent third pitch to back them up. He has a changeup which he throws sparingly. He only threw 28 in 2019 to middling results. It’s not impossible for Peralta to succeed as a two-pitch pitcher. Drew Pomeranz and Rich Hill have gotten by with primarily a fastball-curveball combo. Pomeranz, of course, saw second life moving to the bullpen, so Peralta may also fully transition to relief at some point.
If Peralta stays in the bullpen full-time, it will just be another similarity between his contract and the one Aaron Bummer signed a few days prior. The White Sox extended their reliever on another five-year contract worth $16 million with two club options. A key difference is that Bummer was on pace to be a Super Two at the end of 2020, and Peralta wouldn’t have been arbitration eligible until the 2022 season. Bummer is giving up more of his free agent years, but if Peralta sticks as a starter, he’s leaving a lot more money on the table.
That’s exactly what the Brewers want. Because of Marc Carig’s reporting, we know that teams are trying to keep arbitration salaries down. They might have stopped giving out a novelty championship belt to the team who colluded the best, but teams are still trying to keep players from pushing the needle forward in arbitration. Having players sign extensions before their arbitration years is one of the ways to do that.
According to a report from Jeff Passan, there could be an influx of extensions in the coming weeks. It’s worth noting that no one really knows what the service time rules will look when the current collective bargaining agreement expires in 2021, so this might be a way for teams to stay one step ahead in case their controlled players earn more service time with a rule change.
Regardless, Peralta has job security and he’s set up for life even if he’s leaving money on the table. The Brewers have a pitcher with a ton of upside locked up long-term for cheap.
Kenny Kelly is a writer for Beyond the Box Score and McCovey Chronicles. You can follow him on Twitter @KennyKellyWords.