When the San Francisco Giants recalled Juan Perez on June 8, the plan was not for him to stick around for the long term. But the plan also was not for Perez to be so spectacular and to be leading the Giants’ outfielders in assists just 10 days later. So when Pablo Sandoval and Angel Pagan are activated from the disabled list in the coming days, the Giants will have a tough decision to make on Perez, who has made a more dramatic entrance than pretty much any MLB rookie besides Yasiel Puig this season.
The 26-year-old Perez, who was called up to serve in a utility role but has started four of the Giants’ last five games in center field, has been a huge defensive boost in the outfield, making several amazing catches and having thrown out four runners from center. In addition, he has hit very well, going 8-for-23 at the plate. He made a huge statement in Tuesday’s game as well by driving in the winning run.
As good as he has been, the Giants would have to make some significant adjustments to be able to fit Perez on the roster after Pagan and Sandoval return. Though Nick Noonan can easily be returned to AAA Fresno to open up one spot, the second player who would go is much more difficult to determine. It would be ridiculous to get rid of infielder Tony Abreu, who just returned from the DL and has hit .286 since he joined the team. He has an advantage over Perez in that he is an experienced bench player and has played more at second and third base than Perez. Either of the two backup catchers, Hector Sanchez or Guillermo Quiroz, could be gotten rid of in order to accommodate Perez, but that seems unlikely since manager Bruce Bochy said he wanted three catchers in order to play Buster Posey more at first base. Sanchez helped himself Wednesday by driving in the go-ahead run as a pinch hitter, a skill that he had trouble with in his earlier stint with the team this year.
As great as it would be to get Perez’s defensive prowess in center on a daily basis, it is unlikely due to the fact that the team gave Pagan a four-year, $40 million dollar contract this past offseason. Pagan’s playing time is not going to be reduced at the expense of a 26-year-old rookie who wasn’t considered an elite prospect prior to his recall. With Pagan healthy, Perez would likely be getting his playing time through a jack-of-all-trades utility role, which would include him playing the infield. As a player who has been a regular starter for his entire minor league career, it is possible that he would have difficulty adjusting to a bench role, so he provides less stability than all the players he would potentially be replacing do. The Giants already showed earlier this year that they won’t hestitate to send a hot player down, having encountered a similar situation with reliever Jean Machi, who was sent down after giving up two runs in 10.1 innings.
With that said, Perez has been spectacular and it would be very difficult to simply send him back to Triple-A at this point. His performance in the next few days will be crucial, as if he starts to cool down, he will become much more expendable. He did not help his cause by going 0-for-4 Wednesday afternoon.
If Perez does not deliver exceptional performances over the weekend, he will most likely be the player sent down when Sandoval returns early next week. While he certainly does not deserve it based on his performance, it simply is not logical to get rid of the other bench players. However, if he is dominant this weekend and makes his demotion absolutely impossible, the Giants probably could get by with two catchers. This could be potentially troublesome, though, considering that it would limit their ability to rest Posey over a long stretch of consecutive games, and it would make Joaquin Arias the backup at first base.
It is also worth noting that there have been rumors that Arias is playing through an injury and could end up needing a DL stint in the future, though those certainly look to be false based on the way Arias has performed at the plate and in the field recently. For now, Perez should be hoping to have a spectacular weekend.