Mariners' Oliver Perez stays cool as rumors percolate

ryan.divish@thenewstribune.comJuly 31, 2013 

BOSTON — Oliver Perez lounged on the couch of the visitor’s clubhouse at Fenway Park. The television in front of him was tuned to the MLB Network and analysts endlessly discussed Wednesday’s non-waiver trade deadline, talking about rumors, possible deals and the few moves that have already been made.

Perez barely noticed. He was more interested in laughing at Felix Hernandez’s endless torment of catcher Henry Blanco.

Perez knows that he could be traded by the 1 p.m. (PDT) deadline Wednesday. But he isn’t going to let it dominate his thoughts.

“I know how the situation works,” he said. “It’s not the first time I’ve been through this. It’s out of your control.”

When he was just a young hard-throwing rookie with the San Diego Padres in 2003, Perez was traded along with Jason Bay and a player to be named to the Pirates for outfielder Brian Giles in a waivers trade on Aug. 26.

“It’s funny,” he said. “Once I made it to the Padres, I thought I was always going to play for them. I was so young, I didn’t know any better.”

Perez saw firsthand that pro ball is a business and players are commodities to teams.

“It’s how the game works,” he said. “You learn.”

Perez was reminded of it again after three seasons with the Pirates. He was traded along with reliever Roberto Hernandez to the Mets for outfielder Xavier Nady at the trade deadline in the 2006 season.

Once again he finds himself a candidate to be dealt at the deadline. He’s probably the most tradeable asset in terms of market value of the Mariners who could be traded.

In a way, it’s an indicator of how well Perez has been pitching.

“When somebody talks about you, it’s for a reason,” he said. “I do everything I can when I’m on the mound to keep the lead for my team.”

The 31-year-old has been one of the team’s best relievers this season. He’s 2-2 with a 2.35 ERA and two saves in 41 appearances. In 38 innings, he’s struck out 52. He has shown the ability to get out left-handed and right-handed hitters, pitch multiple innings and work in save situations.

Teams such as the Tigers, Orioles and Red Sox could use Perez’s versatility in their bullpen. Relievers are often valuable trade chips before the deadline because the return can be inflated.

General manager Jack Zduriencik has said he isn’t going to be overly aggressive, but will listen to offers. Trading Perez wouldn’t destroy the Mariners’ chemistry; the bullpen has been anything but consistent.

If Zduriencik, who is in Boston with the team, can get a decent prospect in return for Perez, it’s a move that arguably should be made. Perez is on a one-year free-agent deal and can always come back next season.

“I would love to stay here,” Perez said. “But this is baseball, and I know how it is.”

Perez is grateful to the Mariners. When he was on the verge of retirement as a washed-out starter, Seattle took a chance on him as a reliever, signing him to a minor-league deal in January 2012.

“This team gave me the opportunity to get to where I am right now,” he said. “I’m just happy to be here. And I would love to stay here.”

With the rumor mill churning endlessly on Twitter, Perez is the only Mariner who has been mentioned with any regularity. The Mariners don’t appear willing to trade Kendrys Morales or Raul Ibañez. Because of injuries and the fall-off in production, Michael Morse, who was activated from the disabled list Monday, has little value.

Shortstop Brendan Ryan or Tuesday’s starting pitcher Joe Saunders might be the other most likely trade candidates from the Mariners.

EVALUATING THE MARINERS’ TRADE BAIT

Highest Value

Kendrys Morales, DH/1B – It seems unlikely they will trade him. His presence in the middle of the lineup makes Kyle Seager’s life much easier. Also, because of Seattle’s ability to tender Morales a one-year contract for about $14 million for next season or getting a compensatory first-round pick if he signs as a free agent with another team, the value received in a trade wouldn’t be as great. But that could change if players from the Biogenesis scandal start getting suspended

Raul Ibañez, OF – There are plenty of teams that would like to have the 41-year-old Ibañez. Pittsburgh could use a left-handed hitter. Cincinnati could use outfield help. Plenty of AL East teams would gladly welcome him. But is the value received going to equal the value Ibañez has to the organization as an everyday player and clubhouse presence? He doesn’t seem to want to leave but an injury to a starting outfielder or DH in the next week could really push Ibañez’s value up.

Oliver Perez, LHP – He’s been the Mariners best reliever this season. He gets out right-handed and left-handed batters and has pitched in save situations as well as shown the ability to pitch multiple innings. He has a 2.35 ERA in 41 appearances. With teams such as the Tigers – and now possibly the Pirates with the injury to closer Jason Grilli – desperate for relief help, Perez would be a very attractive addition.

Joe Saunders, LHP – Saunders fell to 9-10 with Tuesday’s loss at Boston but over nine starts from June 3-July 19, he was 6-3 with a 2.77 ERA (17 runs in 55 innings), averaging just over six innings per start. If you remove the awful home start against Pittsburgh on June 25 when he lasted 12/3 innings, giving up six runs, his ERA is 1.84 over that time. He’s not overpowering or dominant, but he keeps the Mariners in games and doesn’t kill their bullpen. He could be a good No. 4 or 5 starter for a team down the stretch.

Wait and see

Michael Morse, OF/DH – Morse was activated from the disabled list Monday so he doesn’t have a ton of time to wow people before the deadline. But he has a proven track record for power if not overall health. Never underestimate the desperation of a team in need of offense. Morse could be placed on waivers and if a team claims him, the Mariners could try and work out a deal after the trade deadline.

Some value, minimal return

Brendan Ryan, SS – Yes, he can’t hit. Everyone knows that. But Ryan can pick it at shortstop. And that has value. Would the return be huge? No. But if he’s not part of the Mariners’ future, it’s a logical move. Could the Tigers be interested with All-Star Jhonny Peralta possibly facing suspension for his role in Biogenesis?

Aaron Harang, RHP – Say what you want about the big right-hander, he hasn’t been as bad as you think. There have been some awful games and he was better in others. He’s 5-9 with a 4.89 ERA but he’s been good against NL teams and the Astros (a former NL team) this season. An NL team might take a chance on him if they were desperate.

Endy Chavez, OF – Could be a bench player for a contending team. Chavez’s value is his ability to play all three outfield positions and his speed. He’s been a big contributor for the Mariners this season with the Gutierrez injury fiasco.

ryan.divish@thenewstribune.com blog.thenewstribune.com/mariners @RyanDivish ryan.divish@thenewstribune.com

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