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MLB Arizona Diamondbacks

Washington Nationals sign Oliver Perez

Is it December 21, 2012 already, or are my eyes just deceiving me? Days after the rival Mets released lefty Oliver Perez, the Nationals have signed the pitcher Scott Boras called “A Top 5 lefty in baseball” a few seasons ago. Perez had a year left on his contract that paid him $12M annually from 2009-2011.

Now why in the world would Washington acquire a pitcher that has seen a great drop in velocity, cannot locate the strike zone, and a player with an ERA approaching seven in his past 100 innings? Well, for one, Perez is still only 29 years old, which leaves him time to possibly regain his form from his outstanding 2004 campaign. Here’s a pitcher that has faced NL East opponents several times over the past four years and don’t you think that he would know a little something about the Mets that could help this team? A second reason could be that it is a low-risk move. Sure that great season was seven years ago, but there may be a chance that pitching coach Steve McCatty could tweak some things and make Ollie’s numbers appear less laughable. Plus, it’s not like Washington’s back-end of the rotation is lighting the world on fire. I’m talking to you, Tom Gorzelanny and Ross Detwiler.

An interesting concept here is that Washington has never really had someone who can strike people out. Try to impress co-workers with this around the water cooler: Out of all active starting pitchers with at least 1,000 innings, Perez has the highest K/9 ratio in baseball. Not Roy Halladay, not Cliff Lee, but this guy who was booed out of New York by fans ready with pitchforks and torches. In the past, the Nats have had mostly pitchers that relied on keeping the ball down in the zone, keeping the pitch count down, and location. Perez is the complete opposite of this, which could give a small window of opportunity to make this work.

Sure, it’s only a minor-league contract and there’s no guarantee that he’ll make the team, but why in the world would Mr. Rizzo do this? This is a team that is trying to improve and the only improvement made here is whatever the official headache relief of the team is because fans will go nuts over how bad Ollie is. McCatty will need a Herculean effort and commitment from Perez to make this experiment worthwhile. If it doesn’t work, the other 29 teams in the league could get a good laugh. So it’s a win-win, right? It’s time for Perez to prove all the critics wrong, but I wouldn’t get my hopes up, DC.