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Rays Face Tough Decision With Joel Peralta’s Option

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Joel Peralta has been a solid member of the Tampa Bay Rays bullpen over the past few seasons, but some believe this could be his last year as a Ray given his $2.5 million team option that is coming up this offseason. Peralta’s 4.41 ERA seems like it would indicate that won’t be exercised, but that mark may not truly represent how Peralta’s pitched this year and there could still be hope for him yet.

That ERA is the second highest ERA that Peralta has ever posted, and it is exactly a full run higher than he put up in 2013. Also, Peralta’s durability may have taken a hit this year. His 63.1 innings entering Sunday were the lowest total he’s ever thrown for the Rays, and you have  to wonder if the 38-year-old’s age is catching up to him.

However, Peralta’s 10.5 K/9 and 1.8 BB/9 are outstanding marks. In fact, they indicate that Peralta should have been much better than his 4.41 ERA. Those marks are both much better than his career 8.4 K/9 and 2.6 BB/9, and they are significant improvements from his 9.3 K/9 and 4.3 BB/9 from 2013.

Another indication that Peralta’s ERA should be better is his .307 BABIP. This means he is getting unlucky when balls are hit in play, and that is likely to change in the future.  Peralta’s 8.5 H/9 this year is higher than his career 7.7 mark, but that can be at least partially explained by the high BABIP.

ERA estimators, which take a pitcher’s peripherals into account to say what their ERA should be, favor Peralta’s work this year. His xFIP shows he should really have a 3.11 ERA, and his 3.40 FIP and his 2.54 SIERA also say he is a much better pitcher than it would seem. Of course, those ERA estimators are not the end-all, be-all of pitching statistics, but when the all say a pitcher should have been significantly better than he really has been, they are usually right.

That is why the Rays have such a tough decision on Peralta’s option. It certainly appears that Peralta has been experiencing some bad luck, and that means he should’ve been a much better pitcher than he’s been this year. But at some point you have to judge a player based off of results and not underlying causes, and with Peralta aging you have to wonder if he will ever be able to replicate his previous dominance.

Another factor you have to consider is the wealth of young talent the Rays have in the bullpen. Players like C.J. Riefenhauser and Steve Geltz have little left to prove in the minors, and starters Alex Colome, Nate Karns, and Enny Romero could all find themselves in relief before too long. Eventually the Rays are going to give roster spots to these players, and one way they could accommodate them is by not exercising Peralta’s option. Doing so would also save them about $2 million between Peralta’s salary and the league-minimum that his replacement will be making.

This decision is still up in the air, and it may end up being one of the toughest calls that the Rays have to make this offseason. Given his bad luck this year, Peralta’s $2.5 million option seems like a relatively good value. But when you take into account how much relief talent the Rays have, the picture looks more cloudy and it is tough to gauge whether the Rays will exercise his option or not.

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