Jeff Passan of ESPN has reported that Kansas City Royals’ catcher Salvador Perez is dealing with a potentially serious injury in his throwing elbow. While the full extent of the injury has not yet been released, the Royals have announced that Perez “plans to travel to Los Angeles early next week to get a second opinion from Dr. Neal ElAttrache.” If the injury is serious, Perez may be forced to undergo season ending Tommy John surgery.
The news is a crushing blow to the Royals. Perez, a six-time All-Star and former World Series MVP (2015), has been a staple in Kansas City since his major league debut with the team in 2011. He has averaged 24 home runs, 87 RBI, and a .266 batting average over his career. He is also an elite defender and a five-time Gold Glove award winner. Perez signed a five-year, $52.5 million contract extension in 2016. He is owned $36 million over the next three seasons.
MLB Network’s Jon Heyman also reported that the team has reached out to free agent catcher Martin Maldonado. Maldonado would be a logical replacement if Perez is unable to play during the 2019 season. He is a defense-oriented catcher who won a Gold Glove award with the Los Angeles Angels in 2017.
While Maldonado would be a suitable replacement for Perez’s defensive ability, he would be a considerable drop-off offensively. During his eight-year career, Maldonado has averaged a .220 batting average. He has also hit single digit home runs in all but one season.
If Perez does the 2019 season, the Royals will be in a position to finish with the league’s worst record. Fangraphs currently has the team projected to finish with the fourth-worst record in baseball (with 58 wins). The loss of their veteran leader so close to the start of the season would be devastating for the club.