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Royals’ Salvador Perez might need Tommy John surgery

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If Perez misses significant time, it could open the door for one of the remaining veteran free agents.

Cleveland Indians v Kansas City Royals Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images

One of the most unfortunate inevitabilities of spring training is the rash of arm injuries that strike around baseball every year. The first major casualty of 2019 came on Friday; surprisingly, it wasn’t a pitcher. Kansas City Royals catcher Salvador Perez was diagnosed with damage to his ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) after suffering an injury earlier in the week. He will get a second opinion with Dr. Neal ElAttrache next week, and may have to undergo Tommy John surgery.

While Perez’s recovery time may be a bit shorter than a pitcher’s if he has surgery, it will still knock him out for the entire 2019 season. He will turn 29 this year, and is still under contract through 2021, so the injury hopefully won’t affect his future with the Royals or around the game.

Our friends at Royals Review are still reacting to the news, but here was Max Rieper’s initial take on who would don the tools of ignorance for Kansas City this year.

If Perez is out for an extended period of time, Cam Gallagher would likely be the starter. Nick Dini or Meibrys Viloria could be possibilites to make the team as a backup, although that would be a big jump for Viloria up from High A ball last year. The free agent catchers still available include Martin Maldonado, Evan Gattis, and Bruce Maxwell.

Gallagher is a 26-year-old righty who has played a handful of games for the Royals over the past two years. He is a former second round pick who progressed slowly through the minors, and finally made his MLB debut in 2017. His major league numbers aren’t anything special, but he has hit .278/.335/.379 in 150 career games at Triple-A Omaha. Dini, 25, is a former 14th round pick who struggled at the plate in Double-A last year. As Max noted, Viloria (or prized prospect M.J. Melendez) likely won’t make the jump up from the lower minors.

How does this affect the Tigers, you may ask? Other than potentially avoiding Perez’s excellent numbers against them in 2019 — he’s a career .297/.348/.504 hitter against Detroit — it probably won’t have much impact on their season. Both teams are projected to finish well below .500, and Perez’s injury makes it that much more difficult for Kansas City to exceed expectations.

But if you are anything like us and still hold out hope that the Tigers will sign another catcher this offseason, Perez’s injury is a bit of a blow. As Max noted, MLB-caliber backstops like Martin Maldonado and Evan Gattis are still looking for jobs, and the Royals might now be able to offer a lot more playing time than other clubs.